Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Season of Resurrection

 

The Season of Resurrection
 
Slender green fingers point toward the windswept sky,
where a battle rages between blue and cottony white.

Daffodil heads, wrapped in linen brown nod graciously, 
bright yellow flags waiting to unfurl.   

Everywhere  - under and all around - the voices of bright angels sing,
"Behold the One who is making all things new."

//

Although March's lion seems reluctant to lie down with the lamb, hints of spring are everywhere and we, my friends, are moving this Saturday to the farm house of our dreams.  These crocuses were peaking out this morning when I stopped by to help my husband with the enormous job of putting back together all of the things we've torn apart. 

Our older two started at their new school this week and that (Hallelujah!) has gone well.  They'll ride the bus on Monday and I will officially lay down my chauffeur hat for a few sweet months until the twins start preschool.

I moved two chairs and a candle stand into my writer's house the other day, swept and mopped the floor and took measurements for a desk.  Before long I hope to be writing and meeting with directees in that quiet, sunlit space.

We will be without internet for a few days (ie. for as long as we can stand it) and I will take a break from blogging.  There's still SO. MUCH. WORK. to be done.  But, spring is in the air, my friends and WE are all being made new. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Pharisee's House




The following is a work of fiction based on the story of Jesus eating at Simon the Pharisee's house (Luke 7:36-50).  It's based on a sermon from awhile back and seemed somehow appropriate for Lent.  
 
He tended to every detail. 

Invitations were carefully considered and extended.  The best linens laid, the finest dishes set out.  The seating chart arranged and rearranged again, everything situated to present himself in the best light.

He prepared his questions ahead of time. Clever queries, not too controversial, aimed more at displaying his own mental agility than fleshing out the nuances of this new and controversial teacher. 

Or maybe not.


Maybe the invitation was a moment of spontaneity he later grew to regret.
Perhaps there was a knot of nerves in his stomach as the meal approached, a cool sweat breaking out on his upper lip.  

Jesus and his disciples arrived wearing the dust of the day and looking tired.  By now Jesus had a reputation as a “drunkard and a glutton.”

The Pharisee’s friends arrived, other teachers of the law, exchanging looks, eyebrows raised.  They were likely cordial, but distant.  

Simon began to wonder if he'd made a mistake.  Everywhere he went, Jesus drew a crowd.
Strangers from the town gathered around the open courtyard, leaning, leering, murmuring among themselves.  

Those gathered at the table found themselves separated by a thousand years of interpretation, a million nuances, a trillion tiny judgments that left the conversation stilted, nearly unbearable.  

//


She was at the river, washing her thin clothes, watching as the dirt lifted layer by layer, carried away by the current.  She beat the cloth heavily with a stone in her effort to clean what could not be cleaned - the reputation that followed her like a shadow.

Far from where the other women gathered, she was free from their endless chatter, alone with her thoughts, her fears, her deep aching loneliness.

Over the wind, over the water, John the Baptist's wild voice rolled like the echo of distant thunder.  

Like water, his words seeped in, bypassing her loneliness and cracking open a well of pain that she carried deep deep within.  

Drawn closer, she watched as one person after another approached the water where John stood, waist deep.

“Repent!” he said, to each and then, splash, they sank under, supported only by his thick hands.  

“Your sins are forgiven,” he proclaimed over every face as it broke the surface, dripping.  

She didn’t ask how or why or by whose permission as she stepped forward into the water.  Her wet clothes clung indecently to a body gifted with curves that drew men’s eyes, even here, even now.  

Stumbling on the uneven riverbed, she righted herself and her eyes met the wide, wild eyes of John.  His eyes held her there in a steady gaze.  

She felt naked before his searching eyes, vulnerable as her shame fell around her, dropping like garments.  

In a matter of seconds, she was turned by rough hands that held her gently and plunged into the dark, cold water.  The sound of the river pummeled her ears.  It was a whirl of chaos, then she too broke the water’s surface.  

The light, the sounds, pierced her as she absorbed the word that was shouted over her, “Forgiven!”
She stumbled, weeping, toward the river’s edge and sat there stunned while people continued moving in and out of the water and the refrains repeated again and again, “Repent!” and “Your sins are forgiven!”  

There was another word too, on the lips of everyone there, “Jesus,” a teacher, a prophet.  Jesus was the one, the driving force behind the man with the wild eyes.  

Jesus was the one turning the world upside down, Jesus was the water washing it all clean, the light casting out shadows, the love piercing the shame. 

//
 
Word spread through the village, there was to be a dinner, a tete-a-tete at Simon the Pharisee’s house and Jesus would be there. 

She ran the whole way to her shambled home and tore through meager belongings until her fingers wrapped around the small jar she kept hidden, wrapped in a rag, her most precious possession. 
By the time she reached the dinner, she was sweating, out of breath, her hair hanging down in tangles.

There was a scuffle on the outer edge of the crowd, some shouts and shoving as she burst into the courtyard. 
Disheveled, she erupted into loud tears, overcome with emotion at the sight of Jesus.
Everything stopped.
Every eye turned.
Jaws dropped.
Every man at the table stiffened, drawing back, but Jesus' body softened visibly as she knelt.   

Bending over his feet, her hands eased along the arches, the callouses smoothing hot tears over dry, dusty skin. 
The weariness in Jesus' eyes, his shoulders, softened as he opened himself to the love that welled up out of her eyes, her hands, her sweaty, bent back.
Jesus, love-hungry and worn, welcomed her touch and what was a holy moment for Jesus and the woman - a sacrament - was a blasphemy for the Pharisee.
The sound of alabaster shattering ricocheted off the walls.
The scent of perfume wafting woke Simon like smelling salts. 
His eyes narrowed as he pulled himself back, half-rising from the table.  His lips curled into a sneer as what sounded like a low growl rumbled forth.    

Jesus, sensing the shift, half-turned and spoke the name, low and stern, like a master calling off a dog, "Simon . . ." and then, pausing, he added, "I have something to say to you."

"Simon."  It was the name that drew him up short, giving him pause enough to listen. 

Simon, the name his parents gave him all those years ago, the name he no longer used, preferring, instead, the shelter of religious titles.  The name stripped him to his essence and he replied as though a school boy to his master, "Yes, teacher, speak."    

//

The woman’s gratitude becomes a table, a meal where she and Christ are fed.  

Simon’s judgment becomes a wall isolating him from this meal of grace.  

Oh, God, may we also be moved through repentance and forgiveness to the seat of gratitude, at your feet.  Never let us miss this meal of grace.  Amen.  

This post is linked with Playdates With God.



Friday, March 14, 2014

Taming the Little Beasties


(How does an introverted mother make it through the long, cabin-fevered months of winter with four wild and wiley children underfoot?  Why, she reads to them, of course.)

This is the scene every morning and night at my house: me in sinking into a well-worn hollow of the couch, my lap filled with boys and a blanket and the older two perched along-side. 

They are my lions and tigers and bears, running and roaring restless and I tame them, still and silent, with the power of words.

They are hungry birds squawking and screeching until I build a little nest and fill their ears with stories. 

They are the snakes I charm with the hypnotic notes of "once upon a time" and "happily ever after."

They are my crowd, my captive audience, the flies trapped in this mama spider's web of words. 

This post if linked with Five Minute Friday, click over to read more posts on the prompt "crowd."

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Building Walls for Lent (This Is Not a Post About Soda)


Two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall.  The wall is the thing which separates them but is also their means of communication.  It is the same with us and God.  Every separation is a link.  Simone Weil

I have a headache.

I'm tired.

I want a Diet Coke.

I gave up Diet Coke for Lent.

//

I cannot say whether it is my body or my mind that turns first toward that magic elixir.  I do know there are times and places - rituals, you might say - wherein I crave it most.

With pizza.

With Chinese food.

With pretzels and chips.

With four whiny children at my feet.

With headaches, severe and with stress and exhaustion - these make an excellent pairing.

//

Yesterday I sublimated my cravings for soda by eating the last, stale squares of brownie, prying them out of the glass dish with a steak knife.  Does that still count as sacrifice?

//

I'm not good at Lent, not very good at anything long-ish, although I can do deep on the spot.  Also, it seems a bit foolish, me here in my first world comforts, donning the proverbial hair shirt of a caffeine deprived existence.  Nothing noble, nothing brave.

Who knows, maybe this very evening I'll walk across the street to the little deli, a wrinkled dollar and five cents in my hand.  They're waiting there, chilled to perfection, black bottles lined up like soldiers waiting to be deployed.

Moreover, my discipline, should it endure, will not make Christ love me more.

Easter comes to us all, my friends, to those who anxiously prepare and wait and to those also who find it sneaking up like a surprise.

So, why bother?

//

I haven't given up yelling at my kids, as this friend has (let us all say a prayer for her now!), or looking in the mirror like this woman here who's leading a whole movement of women in smashing their idols.  I will continue to eat meat on Fridays and I will, mostly likely, slip-up when it comes to soda consumption.

With this relinquishment I'm building a wall, not the Great Wall of China, but something smaller, a facade you might say, between me and my good friend God, so that we can learn to communicate better.

I'm listening to my moods and how they swing, listening to what lies just behind the craving and, should I endure, what lies further behind.  I'm asking God about what I hear, what I see in myself, in gentle and non-judgemental ways.

//

"Oh, my God, this day is simply too much, I really think a soda would make it better." I say, knocking with some urgency.

"Yes," God says, tapping slowly in reply, "it's possible it would.  But really, let's stick with what's going on right here right now, you can get a soda later if you still need it."

Then and there, just like that, a conversation unfolds between the two of us.

And so it goes.

Knocking, tapping, banging at times, on that same flimsy wall for forty days straight.

//

It's not about what you give up or whether you make it forty days or not. 

It's not about earning or proving.

For me, it's about listening intentionally, opening myself to a conversation that wouldn't otherwise happen.

And, also, it's about Easter that comes to us all, slowly and surely whether we realize we've been waiting or not; Easter, when ALL of the walls came down.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Love Was His Meaning


What, do you wish to know our Lord's meaning in this?  Know it well, love was his meaning.  Who reveals it to you? Love.  What did he reveal to you?  Love.  Why does he reveal it to you?  For love.  Remain in this, and you will know more of the same.  But you will never know different, without end." Julian of Norwich

//

I've been gone on retreat - 24 hours - away from the beginning of one day's nap until the end of the next.  They're ecstatic to see me, my little cherubs, their faces still red and their downy hair wet from a good, hard nap.  I sit on the couch and they perch on my lap, one on each leg.

Between gulps of juice, Levi accuses me of having gone on vacation.

"You, ta-chun?" he asks, again and again until I grasp his garbled question.

"Me, ta-chun!" he demands, in a voice ripe with the accusation of one left behind.

Isaiah tucks himself in under my arm, nestling down with his head on my chest.  Looking up, he makes lovey-eyes at me, his face spread wide with a look of pure pleasure.  I kiss his cheeks and he slides himself out from time to time, resting his cheek on his hand and gazing up at me with complete and utter adulation.  Right here, right now, he is love embodied and pure love and delight rolls off of him in waves.

Laughing, I turn to my husband, "He is so in love with me right now.  It's adorable."

//

Later in the week, I take the twins to a local green house where we eat lunch in a little cafe.  Isaiah holds his bun-less hotdog like a cigar, taking bites from the end.  Once the hot dogs and chips are gone, they move on to the bread, dipped in ketchup.

Then the game of "throw-away" begins as they clear the table of all debris, making multiple trips to the trash can a few feet away.  Their chests puff out a little more each after each trip until finally the table is cleared except for the large plastic tray.  Handing the tray to Levi, I tell him to place it on top of the trash can.  Clutching it, he throws his shoulders back and long-strides across the room.

By this time he has an audience, an older gentleman stands watching from a few feet behind.

"How sweet," the man murmurs, before leaning in to ask about my boys.  I explain they're twins and his response, "That must be a lot of work," pleases me.

Then he tells me how he met his wife in 1948 and that they were friends for two years before becoming something more than friends.  His blue eyes twinkle with love-light as he talks and I can tell he can't hear a word I say, so I listen with a wide-eyed smile.

"I still remember it, like it was today," he says.  "She took my hand in hers and said, 'Roger, I sure do love you.'"

Then he told me how they had three girls, all in a row, motioning once with his hand for each daughter and how he expected the next might be a boy.  His wife said no, though, she wasn't having any more children and figured that three girls was a big family as it was. "You don't want any more children," she told him, but I could see right there in his eyes that he did.

"But they grew up," he continued, "and got married and gave me grandchildren and now those grandchildren are married."  He seemed overwhelmed by the goodness, the marvel of it all, the way life opens up and multiplies around us.

Now this whole time, my boys were winking and wiggling at the table, eating bread and murmuring subtle and not-so-subtle hellos in his direction.  As he turned to join his wife who was waiting for their meal at the lunch counter, Levi leaned into me, his blue eyes wide.  All serious and sweet he asked again and again, "Me hug, me hug?"

Surprised by his boldness I checked two or three times to be sure, "You want to hug him?"
"Yeah," he replied, with a relieved smile.

By this time Isaiah had worked his way around the table, he wanted to hug too and he kept taking two steps forward, then back.

"Ok," I said, "you can hug him."

I gathered their coats and Levi's hand found mine as Isaiah ran ahead, surprising the man with a bear hug from behind.  The man turned, surprised, delighted and Isaiah did his happy dance then ran forward again, his arms spread wide and the man bent down to receive him.

Levi hung back, his hand in mine, caught in indecision before leaning in with a hug of his own.

//

It was three years ago in January that we found out we were expecting twins.  An unexpected pregnancy, life interrupted times two and oh how I struggled to make sense of it all.

Julian prayed for fifteen years to know the meaning of her revelation and I've waited nowhere near as long, but stumbling across her words this weekend I realized that the meaning was the same.  These boys, oh, these boys, how they've made life open up and multiply around us. Stretching my belly, my arms, my heart, there's no area of life that's been unchanged, unexpanded by this love and now my prayer is this, may we never know different, without end.

If you like this post, you might also like When Love Visits or The Blessing: On the Eve of Your First Birthday.