Quiet – Five Minute Friday

O GOD of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength; By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer)

Pray For A Quiet MindNearly 18 years ago, I stopped looking for my family. I was banging my head against a brick wall trying to find a relative who wanted me in his or her life. My head ached from the stress of finding just one cousin, one aunt, one uncle, anyone. I heard His Voice ask, ‘Can you be happy without knowing any more?’ And I responded, ‘Yes.’ He is my very best Friend. He condescended to befriend me had remained with me and brought me through hell. I knew I could be happy as long as He is with me. And my head did ache so badly. So I worked to quiet myself and develop confidence. Over and over I prayed the collect for a quiet mind. Years later, occasional chatter appears in my heart but attention to my Friend quiets me.

Fast forward to yesterday when I was reading the biography of the new Bishop for the Personal Ordinariate in the USA of which I’ve been a parishioner for some times. I had heard his name pronounced “Lopes” as in “hopes” but for some reason, that didn’t seem right. He doesn’t seem Brazilian. Yesterday, I learned Bishop Lopes is half Portuguese. His name is pronounced, “Law-pez.” I read more eagerly only to discover a few sentences later that Bishop Lopes’ father had emigrated from Portugal to the “vibrant Portuguese community” in northern California. <Timer Rings>

All at once it struck me. Whenever I’ve been asked, “Why northern California?” I had no response, was left confused — it didn’t seem a reasonable choice. Perhaps my parents had spun a globe and randomly chosen a haven for me. But in one paragraph, their choice suddenly made sense. They sent me to my mother’s people. They may not have known me and when my parents were killed, I wasn’t raised by them. In fact, I didn’t know there was a Portuguese community all around me, our paths didn’t cross. And I’ll probably not know this side of heaven, if they had emergency plans to have me cared for by someone in that community, plans that were thwarted. But I do know that my parents chose a place where there were people like me. I know their choice was an act of love and care.

That knowledge brings a new quiet and a new happiness to my heart. My dearest, dearest Friend has provided me an opportunity to know my parents and myself a bit better. How fortunate I am that when I was lost, He never let me go.

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On Friday (and occasionally Saturday if Friday is filled with an excess of other activities),100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Image source: https://www.pinterest.com/source/overcomeroutreach.com

Time – Five Minute Friday

rageIt only takes one time. Just one time. And then it’s awakened. Rage. A bigger rage than any child can fathom. The desire to destroy, the desire to rend, the desire to annihilate… One molestation, one rape, one instance of sexually abusing a child unleashes forces no child ought ever experience.

Rage is for hell. Rage is for the self absorbed. God did not make a child’s heart for rage.

Sometimes friends post images of molesters being punished in horrible ways. Sometimes they make excruciating statements about what ought to happen to child rapists. Those hurt the victims. Such images and comments beckon the rage that we work so hard to keep under control. They take us back to the desire we must fight, that we must allow God to fight within us.

We were never created to do horrible things to others, even when we’ve been shattered by their actions. We don’t need more insanity. We need to know that we haven’t been made crazy by what has been done to us. The only hope is forgiveness and that takes prayer and work and time and an enormous amount of grace. We need to mark the debt paid because those who have hurt us can never undo or repay. We need to let the sins committed against us be washed away by the Blood of the Lamb.

Lock up abusers. Stop them. But don’t delight in harming them. Don’t be like them. And please, don’t tempt those of us who have been weakened to nail those who have abused us to the crosses their sins have placed upon our shoulders.

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On Friday (and occasionally Saturday if Friday is filled with an excess of other activities),100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rage.jpg

First (The Christmas Card I Wanted To Write)

“[S]eek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

God reveals the beauty in us.

Pieta, The C.1498 Buonarroti, Michelangelo (1475-1564 Italian) Marble Sculpture St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

First, it hurts. Like warm water on frozen fingers. Like Michelangelo chipping away at a block of marble because he knows the Pieta or David is within. Chip. chip. Chip. God is plying his little hammer and chisel. First, it hurts.

Then I remember that first, my parents gave me to God in baptism and entrusted me to His care.

And first, I chose to risk my life on the belief that He really meant, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” If that promise is a lie, then all the other firsts are meaningless.

And first, He has always made it possible for me to withstand the chiseling and so I remain and let Him work. He loves me. I know that. There is no why. I’m not worthy. There is only love.

And first, there are my friends who share in community I hoped for but could never really imagine. They’re the biggest surprise. They wait with me as God warms my frozen flesh and brings me back to life. They wait as He chisels away. They wait in expectation even when I can’t turn my eyes in hope that there is something glorious in me that He is releasing. They wait even when I can’t find words to say “thank you” for loving me. So I will wait with them. I will have faith in their faith.

First, it’s a glorious new year.

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On Friday (and occasionally Saturday if Friday is filled with an excess of other activities),100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Risking Community

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; (Isaiah 61:1-2)

At coffee hour today, we discussed our goals for the New Years. I’ve long known to set goals for myself rather than make resolutions. Goals are what I seek to reach. Resolutions are what I expect to impose upon myself. The first contain a certain fluidity. Reaching them may take longer than I imagine. They will change if I discover they’re inappropriate. The latter seem to me more like an exam that I cannot miss and must pass with a minimum score: I must lose X amount, must learn Y, must somehow, some way do something and if I don’t, I will have failed at my New Year’s resolutions.

Discovering that others have similar perspectives on setting goals for the New Year was lovely. In surprise, I stammered out, “I want to supplement my income doing things I love and finish my book.” It’s true but I don’t usually tell the truth. Instead, I deflect the conversation or weave so many words around my answer the truth is hidden in a dense cloud. When asked what kinds of things I might do, I further surprised myself, “Sewing and teaching dance.” Then my best friend reminded me that I will be teaching him, and perhaps others, to sew. I amended my list of income enhancing activities.

Then the big surprise came. We actually discussed what I wanted and how I could accomplish it within the community. One new friend told me there’d probably be enough opportunity to do light tailoring within our parish. Another told me there was a market for teaching people to sew. Others have asked that I teach dance. I need not figure it all out on my own. This Christian community delights in encouraging each of us to be who God has created us to be. I find it baffling. They owe me nothing. They don’t even know me and might not like me very well if they did. Still, they open their arms and gather me in.

When we consider how selfish we are, any experience of community at all, particularly in the civilized West, is a miracle. Most of us can survive without each other even though we can’t thrive. With all the distractions in our lives, many of us don’t know what thriving is.

Christian community is an even greater miracle. The spontaneous gathering in of strangers who have no claim on us requires us to risk loving as Christ loves us. There are no guarantees. Love may never be returned. And we will simply not like some people; some will never like us. Still, there are those who choose to allow Christ to pour them out as He poured Himself into our world over 2000 years ago. They make miracles happen. They bind up the broken hearted, support captive making their way from cold, dark prisons into warm, blinding light. They confirm that the year of favour is indeed come. Christ is born. God is among us.

Grateful – Five Minute Friday

Today, the last Five Minute Friday post for 2015, I’m to choose my own word. Since I’ve had a sore throat since Tuesday night when I woke with a fever, and, a week before that had a sinus infection accompanied by sore throat, I think my word is grateful.

Before I moved to MD to share a house with one best friend and live across the street from my other, being sick meant being alone, struggling to the drug store or supermarket, and just making it through. Even as a child, I pretty much just made it through. Now, they actually take care of me, bring me cough drops, aspirin, and other goodies. It’s not something I’m used to yet. I’m like a deaf person who can hear for the first time: Overwhelmed and so grateful. (Except the deaf people all cry and I’m not there yet.)

Here’s the video of the deaf hearing for the first time. It’s really cool. May God break your hearts this Christmas so that you can be even more grateful (even if, like me, you don’t cry and get all gushy).

And here’s my favourite piece of Advent music. E’en So Lord Jesus Quickly Come:

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On Friday (and occasionally Saturday if Friday is filled with an excess of other activities),100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Reflect – Five Minute Friday

John 3-16 (1)Advent always causes me to reflect on Good Friday. It seems to me Heaven must have experienced both joy and something else, something that included the complete knowledge of all that was to come. Jesus gave His all. So did the Father and the Holy Spirit. My tiny, human brain cannot even begin to imagine what it must have been like when the Godhead poured one Person into the hands of human beings first as an infant and ultimately, on Good Friday. Heaven didn’t pull back even though it was apparent that we were so far lost, even the best of us did not appreciate the gift.

But I pull back. With all I have been given, I cower in fear or drag my feet. Too often, I’m not busy about my Father’s work. Which leads me to reflect, of all the gifts I can ask for this Christmas, the best might be even a soupçon of longing to spend myself doing the Father’s will. After all, Heaven spent it all for me.

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On Friday (and occasionally Saturday if Friday is filled with an excess of other activities),100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Image source.

Why: Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

John C. Wright’s Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus is a heart wrenching, joyful tale that has little to do with the original and everything to do with God’s answers to our prayers even when they include pain. It is worth a read and worth sharing:

Why is there pain in the world? If I could bring God here, and find a judge to judge between us, and force him to answer  — then I could punish him for all this pain!”

He raised his hand. “Touch the hem of my robe. Come, and see.”

Weary – Five Minute Friday

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Rev 21It must be very difficult to believe that God will really make a new heaven and a new earth, that He will wipe away every tear, that He will dwell with His people, that He Himself will be with us. Difficult, at least, for those who don’t believe in Him and even for some who do. Life goes along pretty much as it always has. Nothing changes very much, at least not dramatically. There may be an unexpected illness or a catastrophe, but then, we get back to normal; there is life, there is death.

But we can dwell with God. Right here. Right now. We can discover Him remaking us and our lives each day. We can experience His power in immense ways: Being healed when life shreds our hearts, having the strength to go on when it’s the last thing we want, discovering community and friendship and family where there was none, clinging to God even when He keeps saying ‘No’ only to discover that holding fast to Him, dwelling with Him was the important thing in the first place.

Cling to Him. Dwell with Him. Trust that He dwells with us. See God’s new heaven and new earth taking shape today.

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On Friday (and occasionally Saturday if Friday is filled with an excess of other activities),100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

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Away III

This week’s assignment was to rewrite a previous submission. My goal is to blend Mel’s interior life with her Friend and the internal censor she has developed with her everyday experience. You comments and suggestions are most welcome:

…But you’re somehow a part of my life
And you won’t go away
(1)

Carly Simon’s voice continued on as my clear soprano cracked and faded to a whisper. The rubbery, dark, barrier spanned my heart and mind. I raised my broken soul to my Friend like a shocked child holding a dead bird, pleading, ‘It’s broke. Fix it.’ My Friend’s arms suffused me with radiant warmth; He neither explained nor eradicated the pain.

“She’s off key,” Verna sneered.

I raised my head to look at her indistinct form through blurred eyes, then wiped away my tears with the soft cotton of my pale blue sleeve.

Verna stood with her back to the frosted window. I did not respond. Neither did the other occupants in our dorm room.

“She is.” This time her voice was shrill.

Sprawled across my bed in her pajamas and robe, Kelli swiped a yellow highlight across another sentence in her economics text then looked up and said, “No she isn’t.”

Her dark gaze caught and held Verna’s hazel eyes. Verna lowered her lashes. Kelli returned to her studies.

Verna muttered, “I can hear it even if you can’t.”

“Huh?” Diana, flopped down like a rag doll, shared the braided rug in the middle of the floor with me. She lowered the typed page she was marking with red, green, and blue fine point pens away from her face, and told Verna, “You’re tone deaf. You can’t even play a kazoo.”

We chuckled. I turned my eyes back to the psychology text in my lap.

Verna opened the window a crack and sniffed, “It smells like snow.”

Ama, twirling one of her many slender braids, uttered a breathy plea, “Verna, it’s cold. We have our French final tomorrow.”

Verna shut the window and bounced towards her friend. The phone rang as she passed.

“Crazy coeds r us!” Nancy and I exhaled audibly. Kelli shook her head. “Meh-el,” Verna bleated, her mouth gloating, her eyes like Claire’s had been whenever she lied and the minister beat me. “It’s your fazher!”

I glared at her and snatched the beige receiver from her hand. “Hello?”

“Who was that?” I knew the minister’s voice could be heard throughout the room.

“My roommate.”

“Get a new one.”

“What’s up?”

‘Good,’ the inner censor commended me. ‘Keep it casual, relaxed.’

Mon Dieu! You don’t ask how I am?” he accused.

“I’m studying for finals,” I told him my voice raising nearly an octave.

‘Stay calm,’ the censor warned.

“You can pick up your ticket tomorrow,” the minister told me.

“Thanks. I’ll get it at the airport Wednesday.”

“Get it tomorrow.” His voice held the same menace as when he unbuckled his belt to hit one of us.
“I have finals every day.” An image flashed through my mind. I held my breath; my heart began to pound. “The ticket… it’s round-trip, right?!”

‘Don’t screech,’ the censor chided.

Zut! Don’t raise your voice to me!” the minister commanded. “I said I’d get a round trip ticket. Are you calling me a liar?”

I soundlessly released my breath but did not speak.

‘Good,’ the censor assured me. ‘Ignore his accusation.’

The minister continued, “Bring all your things back with you.”

“Why?” My heart began pounding again.

“Someone will steal them. Nouille!” He muttered the last word, idiot.

I ignored the insult. “My room and the dorm will be locked. No one can get in.”

“Bring everything anyway.” He spoke in his prophecy-from-on-high voice that I had learned to ignore when I was twelve.

“I have a final in the morning,” I sighed.

‘Perfect,’ the censor told me. ‘Remind him that you have a lot of work.’

“Just because you have that scholarship, you think you know everything.”

“I have insurance.” The words tumbled out before the censor stopped them. I ignored her indignant jolt. “It’s nearly midnight here. I’ve got to go. Tell Matthieu I love him.”

I gently replaced the receiver; he would ring back and rebuke me if I let it slam. Kelli’s eyes caught mine. She gave me a small, I’m-sorry smile. My shoulders ached. The darkness of the rubbery barrier loomed within me.

At the stereo, Nancy put on Janis Ian’s Stars. Her elder sister had owned it before she was killed by a drunk driver. We had not listened to it since the Sunday evening after Thanksgiving when Verna had taken extra holiday time and we had the room to ourselves. In the unaccustomed quiet, Nancy played it after she told me she missed her family.

“Why does your fazher sound like…” Verna proceeded to articulate each word, “a loud, old, French peasant?”

I breathed in through gritted teeth, “He’s not my father.” My lips were a tight line.

“He raised you.” All innocence.

I shook my head with such violence my sinuses ached.

Ama dropped her braid, propped her elbows on Verna’s desktop and said, “Verna said he adopted you.”

Only Kelli kept her eyes on her book; I knew she was not reading. I breathed out a defeated sigh, “No.”

‘Careful,’ the censor warned.

“I can’t find a birth certificate or adoption papers. There’s nothing, not even any pictures of me before I was about five.” My Friend’s arms had supported me Verna and the minister lacerated my heart. But now my body sagged under the continuing assault.​

“Did you ever ask?” Diana interest was genuine. Still her question was another blow. “I don’t mean to pry,” she added in a gentle tone.

“This was his answer,” I pointed to the scar above my right eyebrow, shrugged one shoulder, and lowered my head to my book.

“You’re a foundling!” Verna crowed with delight. “Your parents abandoned you.”

“They didn’t!” Heat suffused my body. Unheeded, my book slid to the floor. My fists curled themselves into tight balls. “I just don’t know what,” my forehead crumpled as the rubbery darkness overshadowed me, “happened to them…” The last three words were a whisper. My fists unclenched, became limp. My eyes pleaded for answers I knew none of them had. My face felt stretched, parched.

“What about you?” Nancy cut in with unusual sharpness. “Your father abandoned you.”

Verna’s back straightened, “Mummy divorced my father.” Her voice held a faint British accent that she had picked up during a semester in London; she used it to proclaim her superiority.

“Your father still abandoned you,” Kelli told her. “You haven’t seen him since you were a baby.”

Verna glanced at each of us. I followed the hasty swivel of her head. First, her eyes met Nancy’s hard, blue ones, then Kelli’s dark, exotic stare, then Diana’s dim sighted, hazel look, then my eyes as dark and exotic as Kelli’s, and finally the steady, blue gaze of her best friend, Ama. No one spoke. Even Ama, twirling her braids, waited with us for Verna’s response. Verna turned her eyes to L’Etranger. I picked up my book as Janis Ian explained:

…I’m leaving a light on the stairs
No I’m not scared – I wait for you
(2)

Rubbery blackness blocked the present from the past, an unassailable barrier. I blinked away tears. An electric tingle saturated my body from head to toe; my Friend was hiding me in the safety of His wounds.
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(1) Stephen Sondheim, “​Not A Day Goes By
(2) Janis Ian, “​Jesse

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