Sacrificing Innocents to the Cult of Trump

It was after a Maundy Thursday, or maybe Good Friday service and Paul, lapsed Catholic and attending all the Holy Week services for the first time in a very long time, was hearing all the readings and listening with a critical ear.

Allow me to paraphrase my wise hubby, “So, all these politicians cutting services like healthcare, food stamps, etc., to the poor are calling themselves ‘Christians,’ and yet, on the night before he died, Jesus Christ said to his closest friends, ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourselves’; where in that was cutting food stamps and healthcare from babies?”

Where, indeed?

I go over it again and again in my head, trying to sort the cognitive dissonance which happens every time a “Christian” quotes the bible in support of the latest outrageous Trump Regime policy, usually with Old Testament scripture. And you know what? I am done trying to justify it, or even understand it. Folks are calling themselves Christian who are really, from my view, worshipers of the worst elements of the Old Testament, the judgy-est, most damning texts.  What we’re seeing is not Christianity, it is a new cult built around the most revolting, all-too-human figure currently occupying the White House.

While understanding that Jesus did not tell us to throw the old rules out with his coming, I do believe he told us to filter all that we do through his new covenant, that we love one another:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”John 13:34-35

What we are doing to innocents brought here by desperate parents fleeing unimaginable violence will haunt us for years to come. The Trumpist cult that is now the GOP is fond of quoting the bible; here is one quote that has always intrigued me, as a student of psychology:

 

“The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed,

“The Lord, the Lord,
a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
 keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,
yet by no means clearing the guilty,
but visiting the iniquity of the parents
upon the children
and the children’s children,
to the third and the fourth generation.”Exodus 34:6-7

This doesn’t sound much like a merciful God. But as a student of psychology, I understand how mental sickness, like many other things, rolls downhill, or through generations. The man who hated his father for beating his mother becomes an abusive husband; children who are sexually violated become abusers themselves (sometimes). God doesn’t need to send specific punishments upon our babies, we do it for Him when we allow our sick, abusive behaviors to dominate and take us over. Our sins roll down onto our babies when we don’t actively address and heal our wounds.

I wonder how many people have had a conversation with a friend the night before he or she died? I have. When my friend Jeff and I talked, seriously and lovingly, alone for the last time, we had the gift of knowing it probably was the last time, and after I fed him beef stroganoff and we did our usual ridiculous cutting up, we talked of Love. It was a conversational treasure I will carry within my heart the rest of my life, and is the conversation which resonated within me that Holy Week when Paul pondered Jesus’ last words to his disciples.

Jesus, the original rule breaker, chastising those fussing at him for dining with prostitutes and tax-collectors, and choosing his last words carefully, mindful of the importance, tells his followers to “love one another as I have loved you” and “love your neighbor as yourself”.

There is nothing of love in this:

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Who are we becoming as an American People? This is what keeps me up at night. A populace which claims Christianity, but acts in distinctly unchristian ways? There is nothing of God in this policy and nothing of God in the people who revel in it. What we do know is that separating children from their parents in this manner results in trauma, the exact results of which may not be known for years.

The sins of the fathers will rain down upon us in ways we cannot even imagine if we let this stand, and they won’t be divinely sent. We will have seeded the clouds all on our own. We must not. We must contact our government representatives today and tell them this cannot stand.  Here is a link to find out who your representatives are: https://www.house.gov/representatives

Entertaining Angels and Con-men

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  Hebrews 13:2-3

Long before I knew the passage, they’ve found me: people who need money, in parking lots with sad stories of sick mothers a bus ticket away, needing a room for the night and just $10 more, or, in this case, a bit of gas to get to his wallet, left at home in Denton while he was here, a stranger and lost.

The first time it happened, I was 16 and had just cashed and was carrying the $73 and change comprising my first official paycheck, money earned at a real job. She was not much older than I, skinny and scruffy, a bit nervous: after a terrible time in SoCal with a bad man, her mother was sick in Oklahoma and any money I could spare would help her scrape up the $50 bus ticket home. She only asked because I looked kind.

When I was 16, that might have been true. I probably did look like a nice, prosperous mark to those in need of quick cash. My family troubles had never involved hunger or homelessness, so I probably exuded the careless, confident openness of the Well Fed American Girl. Eager to please, trained to look after others, I gave her half my money and went home warm in the knowledge she’d get home to kiss her momma goodbye. Sigh…. it was a more innocent time, and I a lot more gullible.

As an adult, however, and really since my early thirties I have been assured by people I trust that I suffer from a pronounced case of Resting Bitchy Face, so I wonder they still find me, and find me approachable enough to ask for money.

But I do often wonder about that passage, and wonder if, from time to time, God Himself or one of his angelic minions walks among us just to get a feel for the mood on the ground, as it were. Does He test us, sending us opportunities to bestow a little grace in an increasingly dark world, standing back to observe our choice? Probably not. He’s got a lot on His plate. And what would the test be? Did she give the money? Cheerfully or resentfully? Did she treat him well, or like a problem? Acknowledge him at all? There are any number of ways One might analyze.

Of all the fives and tens and twenties I’ve passed along to the homeless or people in parking lots with fishy stories, I am thinking few made their way to the Greyhound station and Oklahoma, or a gas pump to a job, etc., etc. But a friend once said that even if my fiver went to a bottle, and I thus alleviated suffering for one person for one night, wasn’t that something? I don’t know.

But I do doubt that if God sends observant angels to beg cash from middle-age Christian women in grocery store parking lots, He sends the same angel twice, in the same guise.

“Excuse me Miss, I wouldn’t ask, but I left my wallet at home. My tank’s on empty and I just gotta get to my job.” He was an inch or so shorter than me, wiry, dressed in a clean gardener’s uniform, wearing a cap and a worried expression. Much as he had two weeks before, when he’d been lost in my town, his wallet left at home, and in need of gas to get to a job.

“Dude, you know I would except you got me two weeks ago with pretty much the same story.”

He blinked and said, a bit reflexively, “No!” but as I nodded at him with a rueful smile and he took a better look at me, he suddenly said, “Well God bless you!” and was off. He’d blessed me the last time, too, and hugged me. He smelled nice, but not angelic.

Was it a test, even still? I don’t know. I hope not. I kind of don’t believe God sends specific tests, and not the same one over and over. From my observation and experience, we tend to make our own circular hells with no need for outside help. I think God spends a lot of time, like all parents, clutching His head and asking Himself, What were they thinking?!

Probably, I should have told the store they had a guy begging in the parking lot. Businesses tend to not like that. But…. he was clean and polite. He stayed a respectful distance away. He’d only hugged me when I handed him the cash, while blessing me. He blessed me anyway, without the cash. I could give him that much, a wee bit of grace, to go unreported, surely?

Angel or con, we all can use a little grace.

 

Mother’s (birth)Day

Today would have been my mother’s 82nd birthday. I can’t even imagine what a wizened old crone she would have been, what with the sun-exposure, the smoking, the arthritis and asthma. I can’t imagine this specifically because the cigarettes killed her at 49, when I was 21, and that was a long time ago.

We did not have a great relationship. As a small child I worshiped her, greatly assisted by the fact that I didn’t live with her. She was someone pretty and shiny, with whom I spent very little time and almost all of it fun. Except when it wasn’t.

She married a good man, my step-father, Jack, who adopted and adored me, raising me as his own and giving my mother and me everything a hard-working man could afford. He came to the school recitals, the ER visits. He was faithful, and a good father. She was miserable; it was her default setting.

She was also in need of some serious therapy to get over her own bad childhood, filled with the emotional and physical abuse she would pass onto me in due time, also possibly the three children born before me, whom I never knew, for whom she lost custody.

There was much anger between us, in those teen-age years. An estrangement, ended only by the news she was in hospital, dying. She was way too screwed up on pain meds for anything to be discussed, revealed, or mended, so we told each other we loved one another, and I brushed her hair and tended her nails. When the end came, my first thought was, “It’s over,” as in all that agita and mess between us.

And God laughed, and laughed….

Because of course it wasn’t over, not by a long shot. It was years later and I had my own daughter approaching adolescence before I realized that, for all the truly good work I’d done on my head in the years since her death, my mother was finding ways to screw up that relationship. That there were things in my head scary enough to need a professional to guide me through them. So I found a warm and wonderful woman with a doctorate and many years in the field of Psychology, and she guided me in laying to rest some old demons, and taught me how to recognized the un-slain in the future, and deal with them when they arose.

When I think of my mom now, two weeks past American Mother’s Day, on this, her 82nd birthday, mostly I just wish she had been happier. Never happier than when she was miserable, she was just so deeply sad and angry. I wonder who she might have been? So far as I know, no one alive now could tell me who Donna Dee Kelly really was before she jettisoned anyone inconvenient and created her own life narrative out of thin air, spinning an elaborate web of half-truths and lies completely incapable of withstanding the weight of, or shielding her from, the circling hawks of facts and truth. For most of my early childhood the answer was to run, moving us every two years, whenever (I now realize) those birds of prey circled too near her.

It’s easy to recall some of her characteristics: generosity; flirtatiousness; charm; a vile,  hair-trigger temper; a complete inability to accept responsibility for her own actions (“you made me hit you”); fear, always fear, of censure, of being discovered, of being less than perfect, of being found out.  While I can recall some of her character traits, I have no idea who she was. It’s entirely possible she didn’t know, either.

I wonder, have I shown my daughter who I am? (Leaving open the possibility that she might know better than I.)

The Rev. Dr. Christy Thomas, in her excellent book, An Ordinary Death, writes movingly of sorting through her mother’s letters and writings, discovering a different woman than the one she knew, the woman her mother was outside of being her mother, and how she wished she’d had different conversations with her mother as an adult. I wonder if I do enough of that with my own daughter? Have I been brave enough?

I wonder, what conversations would you have, what things about your parent’s lives, would you want to ask? Keeping in mind that timing is everything, I’ll suggest to anyone reading this and fortunate enough to have a parent or two still around, it will be a treasure beyond price if you get their stories now.

Ash Wednesday To Go

It finally happened: I stood on a street corner for God. Three of ’em. No sandwich board declaring The End Is Nigh, but still more evangelizing than I am comfortable with generally. Fortunately, I had my camera to hide behind.

There we were: three women waving on a street corner, one fully garbed in priestly regalia, beside a folding easel with a bright purple sign announcing, Ashes to Go. Busy people with places to go whisked past us in sedans, minivans, work trucks, and SUVs, and we wondered what lives they carried with them. I said more than one silent prayer for a driver who seemed particularly preoccupied, or grumpy. And the ones eating while dialing cellphones down Coit around 11:45 a.m., Dude, you know who you are and that call can wait. Just sayin’.

Most drivers were unmindful of us, but not all. There were a lot of smiles: puzzled, amused, delighted, approving, cordial as in, look at the crazy ladies but they make me smile, and they almost all came with a friendly returning wave. They came from guys in construction hard hats or dapper driving caps; women in hijab; firefighters, cops, and people in scrubs; guys in delivery trucks who tooted their horns Hello.

Black faces, White faces, Asian faces, Brown faces. All kinds of faces and many distinct styles of wave.

Mother Leslie offered prayer and ashes to all who asked, those in fine cars and those in ones with better days in the rear view mirror.

It’s a new thing, this Ashes to Go, and I know there are those might find it…. awkward. A bit irreverent.  But I say to them, not so long ago I was a working mother who just had no extra minute to carve from the hamster wheel that was my life for the full church service at the end of a work day which left me feeling like an over-cooked noodle,  yet I still yearned for the connection to my faith the observance of ritual and sacraments provides. And it occurs to me that Jesus spent very little time in the Temple, and there is a kind of fruit that might be planted only by non-traditional means. Or maybe it’s a return to tradition? Hmmm….. something to ponder this Lent.

#WeekendCoffeeShare: Contemplating the Power of Prayer, and a Road Trip

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Gratuitous sunflower because I love them.

 

If we were having coffee, we would be out on the patio enjoying the morning, as our temperatures in North Central Texas have dropped and the mornings have been spectacular.

Over the first cup, I might ask if you’ve spent any time in prayer this week, however you pray, given all the various storms of every kind rocking our poor, tired old world; I would tell you that I prayed a lot this week.

 

python whacking monksFunnily enough, just this morning our Vicar sent out a test of our Spiritual Gifts and one question asked how comfortable I’d be “in constant prayer”. In my head, I saw myself dressed in sackcloth and ashes a la Monty Python. Then I thought about how one really can be in constant prayer, in terms of noticing the need and the beauty in Life, both with thanks and supplications, as the need arises. In fact, it’s easier than saving them all up for one big, massive discourse at the end or beginning of the day, at least for this Christian. Eat the elephant one bite at a time…. and it helps shake me out of the doldrums, acknowledging the beauty and blessings liberally scattered throughout my life. I might wonder if you, also, got yourself so tangled in the hurts and annoyances of Life that you occasionally need reminding how fortunate you are? Because I surely do.

If we were having coffee, I’d confess that I actually admitted I needed some prayers this week, like, for me. I had myself worked into an obsessive mess about some Adulting I needed to do involving standing up for myself, something hard for me, which most people might find surprising. Anyway, I am luckier than most because I belong to a huge circle of ordained and praying women and so I finally surrendered, reached out and asked them for prayers. Prayers just for me and my (comparatively) insignificant problem. And you know what? All those RevGals got to praying, sending it flowing my way and immediately I could feel it, the weight on my heart lifted, and what once seemed unmanageable became, if not cured, at least tolerable. And that’s all I really needed at the moment, respite, so I could put it into perspective.

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But, on to the second cup and more cheerful topics: Paul and I are planning a road trip. Yes, yes, I know, neither Paul nor I really like road trips, we are airplane people really, but this trip is to Chicago to see my daughter and deliver my old wedding china.

Truth be told, we’ve moved four times in two years which has left zero time for fun trips, so driving the china to Chicago might be a wee bit of an excuse to have some fun. We’re breaking up the drive, allowing us stops in St. Louis on the way up and Memphis on the return. We’ll be sampling the barbecue of both places, even if we know they’ll never measure up to Texas barbecue. And I’ve already started organizing the camera gear, thinking of all the photographic opportunities awaiting me.

If we were having coffee, I’d be grateful for our safety. There is incongruity, or at least cognitive dissonance, in planning a trip of pleasure while knowing millions are in danger of losing all they have, so if we were having coffee, I’d ask you to say, in whatever way you pray, a little prayer me and Paul, for ease of mind and traveling mercies, and ask you to also offer up a big one for all those in harm’s way.

Radical Hospitality

I’ve been hearing the term Radical Hospitality in Christian circles for some years now. It seems to vaguely mean Inclusion, Tolerance, and Support for the individual on his or her faith journey, as well as a method of bringing newcomers to the faith. It has meant different things to the various different people and congregations I’ve known who espouse it, or at least espouse the concept of it. I’ve heard it used as a reason to host a local ecumenical event, include Gay people in all aspects of congregational life, and as something the Welcoming Committee needs to take Very Seriously. It’s meaning for me has changed many times, but as ever: recent experience + old memory = lesson learned. One of the rewards of living long enough is that even ancient artifacts of memory can have lessons, given the right ignition.

My ex-husband’s late father left my late mother-in-law for another woman. It was as cliche as could be: she was his secretary. All his adult children and we spouses disapproved, vocally so, and then sat back in our disapproval and waited for the affair to end.

But the affair didn’t end, and a couple years later it occurred to all of us that if his children and grandchildren wanted a relationship with him, we were gonna have to get over our disapproval and hurt and bring them both back into the fold. As the family Golden Child, it fell to my ex-husband, and by extension me, to make that happen.

We invited them to dinner and, because my father-in-law didn’t like me and I knew it, I went about my pre-party cleaning with a double dose of OCD; my neighbor, finding me sponge-mopping the ceiling, gently told me I might be taking things just a tad far. They were likely happy to be invited and wouldn’t be judging my housekeeping too harshly.

They arrived fifteen minutes early and found me, mop in hand, finishing the powder room. Wanting to kill them, I smiled through gritted teeth. We all ate. Both Agnes and I drank way too much. After they left, concluding that “the other woman” had neither horns nor claws and that my father-in-law was not being held against his will, we counted the evening a success.

My ex and I felt quite proud of ourselves. What grown-ups we’d been! We’d nobly cracked the door open a little bit, so they could get back in. Over time, I think all of the kids eventually found their way to forgiving him enough to include them in their lives somewhat, and maybe they’d have done that without my dinner party but, weren’t we Good? Weren’t we hospitable to the woman who had broken up their family? We congratulated ourselves that we’d given more than they deserved, and were the bigger people for it.

Never once did it occur to me how much courage it took for Agnes, whatever her sins, to walk through my front door.

Never once did I think how nervous she must have been.

Never once did I even try to imagine what she must be feeling.

Never once in all the years that followed did I open my heart to her, to who she was, what she felt or thought. I don’t recall ever asking her a question about herself, her life, her interests. But I was always polite.

They eventually married and remained so until her shocking, sudden death some years later. She lay down for a nap and never woke up. There were no second chances at offering Radical Hospitality to Agnes.

According to Dictionary.com:

Radical:  Adjective 1. of or going to the root or origin; fundamental: a radical difference; 2. thoroughgoing or extreme, especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms: a radical change in the policy of a company. 3. favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms: radical ideas; radical and anarchistic ideologues.

Hospitality:  noun  1. the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers. 2. the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.

Just reading the definitions calls up Jesus for me, dining with tax collectors and prostitutes. It points out my giant failings were Agnes was concerned: I took the standard societal attitude about a woman who has an affair with a married man – that she was a heartless homewrecker and not worthy. If I’d been more radical, I might have accepted her as a fellow human being, full of errors and mistakes, just like me. And if I’d been truly hospitable and received her in a generous fashion, I might have saw in her whatever it was my father-in-law saw and loved. I might have offered radical hospitality as well as food and drink.

It is difficult to step away from our convenient labels for people, especially those we consider “other”, be they other woman/other man, or other color, other creed, other point-of-origin, but the loss is greatest to ourselves when we won’t. I say won’t, rather than don’t or can’t, because the latter two might denote a lack of choice, and our freedom to choose how we think is the best, and potentially perilous, gift of freewill.

In a dangerously angry world we need not walls but truly radical hospitality. From being radical enough to suppose the lady with 47 items in the express lane ahead of you at the grocery store didn’t do it to piss you off, to being generous and hospitable enough to listen to fact-based ideas and concerns from the opposing political party.

I think our lives depend upon it.

Weekend Coffee Share: Women’s March Edition, 2017

 

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Home of the University of North Texas, Denton has a lovely old square conveniently surrounded with good restaurants and quirky shops. There is a stately old courthouse around which protests and events happen all year round, and here is where an estimated 2,500 of us gathered in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington, and hundreds of thousands of others the whole world round.

There were signs from about every group the Trump campaign maligned, threatened, or insulted over the last year.

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Held by mother and daughter, this sign is a replica of the one the mother’s grandmother carried as a Suffragette. So here we are again.

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There was abundant patriotism on display.

There were priests, pastors, and holy people, including a small contingent of opposition which set up on the corner across the street. They prayed and sang and chanted, just like we did. I was sad that breakaway group from the Square surrounded them and it devolved into a cross-the-intersection chanting at each other. Still, it was peaceful. It’s important to remember that in America, all voices get heard. Even those with whom we disagree.

Beautiful, fierce Latinas leading us in both Spanish and English versions of chants, Yes We Can! ¡Si podemos!

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There were veterans, families with kids, straight couples and gay couples, men in support of their wives, daughters, sisters or just, you know, humankind.

I was impressed with the turnout by older people, and by that I mean people I assume are older than me, who clings tenaciously to an increasingly elusive “middle-age”.

Black Lives Matter joined us.

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Those for whom Black Lives Matter, and also donuts.

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This lady, with perhaps the best advice of all.

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Someone braver than I ever thought of being.

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The Fire Department cruised by and blew their horns hello; there were abundant police milling throughout the crowd, friendly, though they did tail a man with a long rifle closely for a while. This Sheriff in particular I think has a wonderful face, and he seemed happy to be there with us. Note the mourning strip across his badge; my town is grieving a fallen officer.

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It was very loosely structured and there didn’t seem to be a solid plan for moving forward. There was a great deal of “stronger together” overheard, and disparate folks engaged in conversation. All good. Great even. Anything that brings differing people together for good  common cause is awesome.

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But as wonderful a feeling as this gathering left with me, I worry that the momentum will lose steam as everyone gets back to their day-to-day lives. Now is when the work starts, and we can’t afford to become (again) complacent. We need to get out and vote. Know who our local, state, and federal representatives are, and their voting records. Get noisy and remain vigilant. Fact check everything we read and hear, especially anything we ourselves pass forward, lest we contribute to the confusion and division.

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Somehow, we need to keep this feeling of purpose and unity with us every day.

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It was a good day, ending in Chinese food with friends.

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Oh, Mr. Chopsticks how I adore you.

Now, the real work begins. Stay vigilant, my friends. For our daughters, our neighbors, our friends yet unmet, those who have no voice, the disenfranchised, those who turn to us – to U.S., for hope.

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Weekend Coffee Share: Rolling up the Sleeves edition

I’ve been in a funk since the election.

It didn’t go my way.

The Wednesday after, I allowed myself to wallow, neither listening to nor watching any news. It would all still be there when I was ready to hear it. Instead, I Netflixed the day away on the couch in my sweats, with my critters. There may not have been a shower taken that day. Paul called from his job site in England and talked me off the ledge.

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He talks me off the ledge

I texted with my daughter, who also was not doing well with the election result, and we commiserated. I gave thanks for the supportive work environment she’s now in, where apparently nothing got done that day, but they all took care of each other.

Thursday, I watched Samantha Bee’s post-election show and was comforted, first by her righteous anger, then the exhortation to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Work: this is something I understand, and we surely do have a lot of work to do in figuring out how the Democrats got it so very wrong. This election has resulted in an outcome requiring much soul-searching, most particularly in figuring out who we are as the American people, because that picture has clearly changed over the last several decades. Lots of work to do.

 

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This fabulous woman makes me laugh, hard.

While the bewilderment remains, the malaise lifts. My daughter came for Thanksgiving week and we did not much of anything but commiserate, watch movies (definitely go see The Arrival, wait until Nocturnal Animals shows up on cable), and laugh. Few people make me laugh as hard as Charlotte. We cooked a very successful Thanksgiving dinner and followed that with a mini-Sloth Day on Friday. Perfect.

 

Now we hurtle through the Holiday season towards a new year and a new President. I am lucky to belong to the RevGalBlogPals, and in this time when my faith in my fellow man is shaken to the core, I am inspired by their writings reminding me there is a power bigger and stronger than I can imagine in control and that eventually, everything will be alright. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. They also remind me that this is not an excuse to stay mired in the funk, trusting others to do the work but rather, now is a time for prayerful consideration on my role in making the world a better place. Because we all have a role.

I believe the next four years will be a time when thoughtful people, whatever their political affiliation, must be vigilant in fact-checking and holding to account our public officials and the media. We will need to be sharp and attentive to preserve our democracy, this great experiment of American Freedom.

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Ornery Cat
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Notorious Sock Thief

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff and I used to talk about the condition of our homes as metaphors for our emotional states and I do believe it is time to fill my home with light, color, and the aroma of baking goodies. It is Advent, the time of preparation and expectation and a spray-tanned president with a bad comb-over is no excuse to forget the coming of the One. For this weekend I am going to nestle in with my sock-stealing dog, ornery cat, wisely wonderful husband, and listen to the rain while bringing out Christmas.

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Come January, there is a lot of work to be done.

 

Friday Five: Light

Julie over at RevGals asks for this Friday Five, we fill the Web with light, in photographs, poetry, scripture, or whatever else brings light to a troubled world.

Ever a shutterbug, I’ve recently taken up actually learning photography, which is all about light: the interplay of light and shadow; compensating for the lack of it; mitigating too much of it; chasing the best, most beautiful light of early morning or late afternoon. With a camera, I’m learning to bend light to my will, present in a permanent record something I saw or felt, and if I fail I can always Photoshop it until it does. It’s a point of pride to resist the temptation of ‘shopping much.

Light is a tricky thing. Not for nothin’ do we have songs and poems that talk of being blinded by the light. Plato’s Cave is the example we use to explain how some knowledge must be attained portion by portion, because the totality would be too much all at once. We say that information or explanations for things “dawn” upon us, the knowledge comes once illuminated, often when we choose to see it. I guess that’s Free Will at work as our own internal light switch.

Here is a photograph taken just after sunrise, when colors are true and pure, and the light reminds me of when we first fall in love with someone, how the object of our affection is perfect and beautiful and without flaw. Maybe this was the light on that first day, when God sat back and looked at His creation and it was Good. The world was new and all things were possible. This is our faith when it’s newly discovered.

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Just after sunrise, Irmo Park, Irmo, SC

Growing up in Southern California, I always thought of the mid-afternoon light as hot, hard, and flat. In photographic terms it is. It washes out colors, casts harsh shadows, and makes humans squint. This is the light of the workaday life, when work and kids and mortgages makes one squint with worry and toss and turn through sleepless nights, and where the shadows seem, as Melisandre would say, “dark and full of Terrors”. Which isn’t to say there isn’t beauty to be found, though it is incumbent upon one to seek out the shaded areas of an active prayer life, people in whom one can seek restoration and succor. This is our faith when we realize it takes work on our part to live it.

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Mid-day at the Farmer’s Market on Lady Street, Columbia, SC

Sunset light is lavishly beautiful, rich and full, reminding me of adults in later life – I guess this is why it is sometimes said old folks are in the “sunset years”, being full of Life, Experience, and Knowledge. It reminds me of when that new, fresh falling-in-love feeling deepens into a mature love, the kind when you wake up next to your beloved snoring soundly next to you, and you thank God for your good fortune and say a grateful prayer. This is our faith when it is mature, when we have acquired the good habits and done the work, and the places where God carried us through are now bathed in light and easily seen.

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Sunset over Lake Murray

We say some people light up a room or have mega-watt smiles, and Jesus was the Light of the World (which we lost no time in extinguishing, at least the earthly light). We might be blinded by the light, but though it has always struck me as a song about troubled love, I find myself thinking of U2’s Ultraviolet – there are things in the light we can’t see, and we need someone to light our path. Or maybe… hard as it might be, maybe we are supposed to be the light, and it is up to us to light the path forward. This is how we live the faith and make sense of a dark world.

 

Ultraviolet by U2 (From Achtung, Baby)

Oh
Sometimes I feel like I don’t know
Sometimes I feel like checkin’ out
I want to get it wrong
Can’t always be strong
And love it won’t be long

Oh sugar, don’t you cry
Oh child, wipe the tears from your eyes
You know I need you to be strong
And the day is as dark as the night is long
Feel like trash, you make me feel clean
I’m in the black, can’t see or be seen

Baby, baby, baby, light my way
Alright now
Baby, baby, baby, light my way

You bury your treasure
Where it can’t be found
But your love is like a secret
That’s been passed around
There is a silence that comes to a house
Where no one can sleep
I guess it’s the price of love
I know it’s not cheap

Oh, come on
Baby, baby, baby, light my way
Oh, come on!
Baby, baby, baby, light my way

Oh, ultraviolet (ooh)
Ultraviolet (ooh)
Ultraviolet (ooh)
Ultraviolet

Baby, baby, baby, light my way

I remember
When we could sleep on stones
Now we lie together
In whispers and moans
When I was all messed up
And I had opera in my head
Your love was a light bulb
Hanging over my bed

Baby, baby, baby, light my way
Oh, come on,
Baby, baby, baby, light my way

Oh, ultraviolet
Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet

Baby, baby, baby
Baby, baby, baby
Baby, baby, baby, light my way

Baby, baby, baby
Baby, baby, baby
Baby, baby, baby, light my way

Baby, baby, baby
Baby, baby, baby, light my way

Baby, baby, baby, light my way

 

Weekend Coffeeshare: Simplicity

IMG_8999 (2)If we were having coffee I would ask if you have found, as you mature, that it is the simplest things which make life most beautiful? Were you as foolish as I when very young, and dreamed of all manner of opulence and glory, and thought they made life worth living? No, I imagine you were probably much more sensible than I.

Because I can be willfully stubborn, sometimes God sends me cosmic two-by-fours when He thinks I need a lesson. However, the older I get, the less frequent they’ve been, and I think it is because I’m more willing to see the small, gentle hints and nudges He sends, and more willing to revel in the simple pleasures of life: sleeping in, the cat sitting on my lap, a walk through Farmer’s Market.

Because I’ve had a bit of a funk going this week, I might wonder if you agree with me that it might not be strictly coincidental today’s WordPress prompt is Simplicity, or that the first thing I read was this lovely, grateful, simple post by one of the RevGals. It may be called Lucky, but I think it speaks to the simple things in life, the everyday wonders that keep us going and, if we’re observant, in wonder at the beauty of Life.

Like, coffee. It is simple, warm, comforting and gives me a vital kick in the butt in the morning. Oh, I can get up without it (how about you? Can you?) but why would I want to?

Pizza. I make my own pizza dough, because it’s so simple to do and so worthwhile: flour, water, yeast, salt, and a bit of olive oil. Let rise. Roll out and top with anything you want. Last week it was pesto sauce, mozzarella, tomatoes, onions, and garlic. This week was a classic pepperoni. Almost every Friday night, Paul and I eat it sitting in front of the TV watching whatever series we’re currently involved with, right now, it’s Vikings.

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The Classic Pepperoni Pizza

Movies. It’s one of the things that bonded Paul and I, our mutual love of movies. Today we’ll go see Now You See Me 2, which we doubt will win any awards but will entertain us. Also, Previews. We are united in our love of movie previews, and always get to the theater in time to see them. Yes, we are nerds. Yes, we are unashamed.

Nature, as seen through a macro attachment to my camera. Simple it is not, at close range but I think it qualifies because it is all around us, and all around the grocery store at which I bought these flowers:

It reminds me a bit of looking through a microscope in college biology, which I passed by the skin of my teeth, and wondering at the beauty of cells. So complex and wonderful and only visible through a high-powered lens. Why would they be beautiful? Maybe the better question is, why not?

IMG_8931 (2)More nature, sitting on my back patio with my camera, and catching this guy on the branch sporting the Tenacious Pine Cone, as Paul and I call it. Through powerful winds and storms, this solitary pine cone hangs on. One day we’ll look up and it will be gone and we will mourn its passing, comforted in the knowledge that its fall will propagate more such stouthearted cones. I wonder if this mockingbird has the same flights of fancy as we about the Tenacious Pine Cone or, being a much more practical creature, was simply posing for me? He gave me quite a look, just before he struck this pose, as though to say, “Catch my good side, please”.

What are some of the simple things you appreciate in Life? I’d love to hear them over a good cup of coffee, maybe in the backyard where we can watch the mockingbirds, cardinals, and bluebirds.

#weekendcoffeeshare

Simplicity