What Are We To Do

I was honored to present this at church. After torturing my husband with practicing all week I was able to do it without reading every word. The news has been so bad lately, it makes you question everything and this was my way of trying to figure things out.

What are we to do when evil
drops in and curls up on the sofa,
whispers to us from the tv,
tickles the back of the throat as we watch
another fatherless child weep?
Will we see Jesus as we stumble
along this dry and dusty road
filled with funerals and rage?
There is no room for both love and hate.
One will always push the other off the cliff
and in the falling we close our eyes
so heaven is no more in our sight.
How we see becomes what we do.
Did God know when he took clay and formed it
in His image
how we would refuse to see Him in each other?
We cannot fall so far
that grace cannot catch us by surprise
and place us back in green pastures.
Dissension can never yell so loud
that it drowns out the bird’s song.
God waits while we struggle,
ready to
give us back the gifts made for us,
give us back the work prepared for us,
give us back the part of us that is like Him.
So, while evil sits on the sofa
let us do what makes us who we should be.
Feed the hungry, heal the sick, console the bereft.
Let’s turn our backs on the thief of joy.
Sooth the tickle at the back of the throat
with living water.
Weep with the fatherless
and be Jesus on the dusty road
for those who need Him most.
There is no law against these things
and they will give us back so much more than they cost.
We will be salt.
We will be light.
We will see grace.

Sunset Symphony

the sun so loud it hurts my ears
and even as the night would cool
I feel the heat brush tree limbs bare
and paints a sky that once knew blue
but bids us peace with brighter hue
a fierce reminder daylight wins
and as a planet silent spins
the sunset chorus covers sins
dawn will come the dance begins
but just for now keep watch and see
a symphony of light for free

a letter to myself

I am so guilty
of overthinking, overclocking, over-reacting
to it all and now I am tired and wired and
seeing that all are not good and will not be okay
and as sad as it is I will not be rushed
or crushed or brushed under the rug
stepped on like a bug, I lugged this carcass
miles and while it may have been a need
once upon a heavy time I let it go and silently
clap
in time with the breeze that carries it and me
above the storm and change, my range a new norm
a piece of peace to call I own it now
just like that guilt, the silt left by the storm, the flood
the murky mud of letting loose the noose no longer
choking off the quiet till like dandelion ghost I float
and in the invisible become seen and heard
where it matters

Before The Storm

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Photo Credit Deborah Scott Lightfoot

Thank you Deborah for inspiration.

rain skates across skidding clouds
smoking up the blue and
drowning us all in grey and sad
shrinking us into the landscape
even the trees drift into dark
while the buildings sink
their foundations into the earth
as everything waits

 

Once Upon a Time

the instructions were to begin with Once upon a time and then write a short practice piece.

Once upon a time a sad girl went for a walk. As she walked she began to hum and soon the humming turned to singing and her steps became a dance. She danced and danced and waved her arms in the air and soon her arms became wings. When she opened her throat to send out the notes she filled her lungs with air and her wings lifted her high above the swirling leaves and the wind carried her farther than her dreams. Her legs and feet began to draw up and shrink for they were no longer needed for the dance and the sun warmed her back as she floated between clouds and swirled and twirled like the leaves she had passed on her way to sky. Her words became sound that she left behind her as she soared higher and higher and farther still. As she swooped and dived and climbed again she turned her eyes to the earth she had once belonged to and she saw the green of the trees and the blue of the sea. She dove and saw her reflection on the water as she coasted just above the glittering surface and the ripples broke the image into millions of sparkling pieces. Her sadness had blown away on the breeze and she decided then and there that she was no longer earthbound. The girl who was not a girl turned back to the sky and joined the flock of others who no longer stumbled in the dirt. Sadness is small as stones on sand and she had risen above it.

A Book Review…Sort Of…

Spoiler alert!

I recently finished the book The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. This is a quest story with magic and trolls and elves, an unlikely hero and his band of friends. Evil is taking over the earth and the only defense is our hero and the sword that he and a motley crew of equally unlikely companions search for. The quest is dangerous and they run into all kinds of problems, are separated, wounded, and think that all is lost, only to be reunited in the end when good, of course, triumphs.

The hero, Shea, is a half elf who is adopted and does not know until told by a stranger, that he is the last of a royal elf bloodline and according to legend, he is the only one who can use the magic sword to defeat the evil. His companions are not like him and as the journey goes on, people who begin as enemies become friends and growth happens in the process. Shea is not brave and is filled with doubts that constantly surface. He is not even sure that he believes the legend. He is uncertain that even if the legend of the sword is real, that he could be the one to use it and he doesn’t have a clue HOW to use it if he lives to find it. He feels guilty that others have put themselves in danger to protect him and help him find the sword. He feels unequal to the huge responsibility of all the people who are depending on him and who will die if he fails. Again and again he wishes to just return to his old peaceful life but continues on his difficult and frightening path because he feels he cannot quit when so many are willing to sacrifice their own comfort and even lives to help him.

At one point he actually has the sword in his grasp and it disappears again because he does not recognize it. He expected something grand and so did not know the plain sword for what it was.

Now let us switch gears. I recently was part of a bible study where the theme of the readings for the week was reconciliation. If you look up the word “reconcile” there are several definitions. One is to restore friendly relations between. A second is to cause to coexist in harmony; make or show to be compatible. A third pertains to financial accounts – make (one account) consistent with another, especially by allowing for transactions begun but not yet completed, a reconciled bank transaction means that it has been cleared. I started thinking about the book I had just read.

We too are adopted as sons and daughters of God. We are reconciled to God by the sacrifice made by an unlikely (in human terms) hero. A carpenter who the world had difficulty recognizing as the messiah. Instead of being a royally attired king who would lead his people to a worldly victory over those who oppressed them, he healed and fed and preached and taught those the world would not recognize as worthy, and sacrificed himself so that all of our accounts would be cleared. No matter how big our debits column, Jesus would fill in the credit column for each and every person who would receive him and make them sinless and restore them to God. Our debt is cleared and we are free to be unlikely heroes to others by imitating a humble savior who rather than give in to what people wanted, walked a difficult path to give them what they needed.

The ending of the Sword of Shannara found Shea clutching the sword and learning the hard way that the sword reflects the person holding back to themselves, not as they would see themselves but as they truly are. It was a painful experience for the hero. All of his faults were made clear to him and he wanted very much to thrust the sword away but he held on and allowed the truth to wash over him. In the process he realized how to use the sword. The evil warlord was there with him and all of a sudden, he did not look as tough and scary. The scary bad magic guy tries to flee but Shea hits him with the sword and when the sword touches him he recoils and screams. There are more gory details but in the end, the evil guy who would kill anyone who opposed him and rule the world through violence and might, is unable to stand what the sword reflects back at him about himself and turns to ash. The humble and frightened Shea triumphs and saves the people.

Now most of us, if asked, would say that we are pretty good people. We can at least look around us and say to ourselves, “well..at least I am better than this or that one, or yes I slip sometimes but I don’t do the things that person does..”

But what if the mirror we look into is Jesus Christ? How do we measure up then? Would I be be willing to take the hand of a leper? Sit and eat with and minister to people I deem worse sinners than myself? Die on a cross, naked and in pain for those same people? Live out every moment of every day of my life for others in obedience to God? Can I look at someone who has been mean and unfeeling towards me and see what God sees? A brother or sister who Jesus died to save?

1 Corinthians 6:11 “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

“Justification is the work of God where the righteousness of Jesus is reckoned to the sinner, so the sinner is declared by God as being righteous under the Law.”

In other words, the minute we accept Jesus is our savior, we are set apart and our account is clear. We still have a long path to walk and as we stumble down that path, God works in us and we respond as we are being sanctified or made more like Christ. That is our work, our path. To learn what is the will of God and do it and in so doing become more and more like Christ until the very end of our lives. That is the process of sanctification.

Shea was the chosen one in the story. No matter what doubts or temporary setbacks he dealt with, that never changed. He was always the chosen one. The terrible things that he went through on the journey, the pitfalls and disasters and losses, while often giving him the desire to just forget the whole thing, never caused him to keep walking the path. He stumbled often, but he kept walking and grew and in the end, his humility and refusal to give up was what saved the day.

He was “justified” – chosen. He continued to be obedient and walk the path even when he was scared, felt lost, was tired, angry, resentful for being ripped out of his simple, peaceful life and in the process, he became who he was meant to be (sanctified).

You may be shaking your head about now, if you are reading this at all, and thinking that my comparisons are pretty thin. I have no idea if the author had any of this in mind as he wrote the story. I only know that God is good to let me have this perspective and see these themes in a story. If I look into the mirror of Jesus Christ there is a part of me that wants to melt into a pile of ash because I see how great my faults are but another part of me is so very grateful that Jesus took care of my account and freed me to keep trying to find the path God wants me to walk and given me hope that all will be well in the end.

Things I Want To Carry With Me

(Or the week our two year old grand daughter stayed with us)

Playing hide and seek (it doesn’t matter who finds who as long as someone makes a scary roar when found)

The night she ate three helpings of broccoli – THREE! The girl loves her broccoli…and Tornadoes (tomatoes)

Dale spending several hours trying to figure out what she was trying to say – it sounded like “truck fix”  Caralee translated – chapstick. (She likes the red chapstick and the yellow (color of the tubes)

She does NOT ever ever ever want to lay on her back in the tub to get her hair rinsed. Melt down time.

Listening to her sing herself to sleep with the alphabet song and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Watching her dance to her favorite song – Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off”

Having her look up at me and say “I like it at Gamma’s house.”

Carolee watching me dish up ice cream and seeing that it is white, shaking her head and telling me she does not like it. She wants BROWN ice cream.

She loves to lay on the ground and draw in the dirt with a stick. She loves to be outside period. She will stay until her little hands are like ice and still does not want to come in.

Seeing her sit in my old rocking chair (finally re-covered) and watch Polar Express (the Santa Claus train movie in her words)

Caralee sitting next to me in a booster seat at a restaurant, leaning her head on me and saying “I like you” I was ready to go buy her a car.

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Morning Flight

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image credit Tommy Stone

with ebon wings and gentle brush

takes canvas cold and blue

a softer blend that builds and builds

till sun flings up a brighter hue

and when the color catches fire

suddenly the artist free

takes flight no more to tire

soars high above the trees

they say the wind upholds their wings

but I would say it’s light

to rise above a silent pond

and join the morning flight

Quiet Goodnight

Tommy Stone Photo

Photo Credit Tommy Stone

hush now

don’t fear the dark
everything must sleep
every living thing
does the sky not tell you?
Do the shadows not close your eyes?
Let the sound of the water
sing a lullaby
let the soft breeze rock
your tired bones
all must nestle down and
curl around the earth
for warmth and peace

Exodus

Exodus 1

15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah; 16 and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive. 18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?”

19 And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them.”

20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty. 21 And so it was, because the midwives feared God, that He provided households for them.

Cue the sound of brakes…The midwives LIED and yes they saved lives and it was for a good purpose…but God actually rewards them?  But, just a few chapters later God gives the ten commandments to Moses and cough cough “Thou shalt not lie” cough cough…

I had never focused on this tidbit before and I know that there are many ideas that seem contradictory in the Bible. It doesn’t shake my faith in scripture and this isn’t about exposing the Bible as some hoax. I am just wandering through these scriptures that I have read in the past and that every child who attends Sunday school is given as stories,  trying to see them with a fresh eye. Forgive me if I ramble because some of this is me working it out for myself on paper.

I did some searching to see what people who are much smarter and versed in scripture then I am say and one idea that made some sense to me was that God did not reward the midwives for lying but for saving the baby boys.

I think that there is another reason for theses little nuggets that pop up and make us question. One purpose is to make us do exactly that – question. Why would we assume that the God who created then entire universe out of nothing would be easy to understand? When I read a verse like this one, I am lead to cross-references and other scripture and commentary. Anything that motivates us to read more, study more, dig deeper, has to be a good thing.

I remember when my youngest was little, we had a garden and she loved the cherry tomatoes. She loved them so much that we had to watch her or she would eat too many and she didn’t seem to care if they were ripe. One day she was playing in the back yard and when she came in the house there were tomato seeds stuck to the front of her pink tee shirt. I asked her if she had been eating tomatoes and she shook her head no, unaware that the evidence was literally all over her. All she saw was that we were keeping her from something she liked. She did not see that we were protecting her from getting sick.

We humans learn very young to lie to avoid punishment. No one likes consequences but logically, maybe having no consequence makes it more difficult for us to admit our sin. Without admitting our sin we have no cognizance of the need for a savior. Without a savior we cannot be reconciled to God so lying to avoid consequence is a big problem for us.

All of us have those sayings that we inherited from our mothers. The ones that used to make us roll our eyes in disbelief at how old fashioned and out of touch our mother’s were. One that sticks with me and as with most of my mom’s sayings, now makes perfect sense to me, is “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” My mouth often gets me into trouble but I try not to add lie to the mix. It is hard enough to remember everything as I get older. I KNOW without a doubt I would not be able to remember lies. Trust is such a delicate thing and so very important. One lost it is almost impossible to get back. I think I am forgiving someone who has lied to me but I am not sure that I am successful because there is always that little doubt in the back of my mind and I am more careful. It crates an us versus them mentality.

Years ago I read about the word Koinonia.  Koinonia is being united in worship, in serving, in fellowship.

Philippians 2:1-2 says “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”

If trust is broken because of lies then Koinonia is impossible, not just with each other as Christians but with Christ.

Have I got a good answer about the midwives? I think they were just humans thrust into an impossible situation and God in His wisdom, knew they looked at their options and did the best they could. Imagine being in their position. You are a poor person who has devoted your life to helping people. Now you stand before a powerful man who rules a country in which you are perceived as a second class citizen at best, a threat to the economy and society and completely at the mercy of a man who has ordered you to commit murder. They took a courageous stand and defied the order but in a way that deflected what could have been further punishment for their people if perceived as out and out defiance and survived along with saving the lives of babies. God had plans for one of those babies and we don’t know, because the story doesn’t give us any more information but it’s possible that some other infants who survived became the ancestors of other important prophets. We do know that there were mothers who would have been heartbroken if not for these midwives and their creative problem solving.

God is not okay with lies but maybe we are supposed to think. To simplistically apply laws is to go back to the time of the Pharisees and takes grace completely out of the equation.

Grace?? Oh yes. I forgot about that. Was grace present as early as Exodus? Well, Adam and Eve ate of the tree of life but God did not kill them. Was there a consequence? Big time! They were banished from the garden and life became a whole new level of difficult. We may think that was harsh but God did not kill them and so the human race went on. That was grace. (And remember that whole debacle had lies at the center of it!)

We tend to think of grace as a new testament thing but God’s grace has been with us from the beginning and thankfully will be until the end.

When my little one lied about eating the tomatoes I didn’t spank her. I did point out that I could see the seeds on her shirt. I reminded her that green tomatoes would give her a belly ache. I knew that she would have many lessons to learn as she grew older and that some of them would be painful. I loved her then and I love her now. Did I still trust her? Well, as much as you can trust a three year old who loves tomatoes.

Everything seems to point back to grace. Amen.

Genesis

We started a new bible study. 24 weeks long, it is supposed to encompass selections from the entire bible. I recently started bible journalling on my own so I am using the same method for this study. The method is called SOAP. Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. The method works well for me because I have always been a skimmer. This method makes me slow down and take slower, deeper bites.

The study starts at the beginning in Genesis and though I have read the creation story multiple times, I focused in on several things this time. The two things go together for me. First of all, God SPOKE the world into being. Second, we are made in His image.

Of all of creation, we have the gift of words and the ability to create. We make art and one of the ways we make art is through words. Stories and poetry and song, all the ways that we try to describe our world, whether external or internal.

All of creation has language and poetry is nothing but us silly humans trying to translate that language into words and draw us closer in as part of that creation.

To really be IN the world, a part of everything, to hear the sun set, feel the rain blowing in, smell the sun-warmed pond, to draw warmth from the little dog curled up next to me, to hear the buzzing of conversations in a crowd with clear snippets floating past. This is poetry and the source of poetry. God IS poetry and creating and the best of us is when we love His creation, when we love everything and everyone He created. We see HIM in each other and in the world He created. WE are created in HIS image, and so if we would see God, then we must see each other and see the God spark in each of us, the potential for creation, the music, the art, and the poetry.

New Day

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The morning smells like hope

is blowing in on fall winds

Sky sets fire to yesterday’s trouble

as trees raise a new day from the cold ashes.

 

Photo Credit: Tommy Stone

Dawn

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morning waits
just beyond the treeline
and for a moment
night hangs on to the sky
by the tip of ragged branches
shivering in the early morning chill
stretching for the sun
even before it appears
how do they know?
the pond whispers
and they listen

Photo credit: Tommy Stone

Bon Voyage Friend

The Paris Poets Society met tonight to say farewell to a member who is moving away. She will be greatly missed. What could I give her but a poem. See you later Sharda.

 

We are the lucky ones

The gifted, slightly crazy ones

Who see the world in brighter hues

With hearts too big to make us choose

We make one singing moment freeze

Or gobble eternity if we please

Paint with sunlight, wind and moon

Voice a storm, pour out monsoon

Open heart, to throat, to pen

And give it to the world again

Young or old, joyful, shattered

sing or whisper, doesn’t matter

Use your words, we tell a child

But poets play with words and smile

We know a secret, so look around

We share our souls where poems abound

The View From Here

endless conversations with each other and with God

fall again and again on deaf ears, an effort odd

in that the talk is not the walk and hearts are never

in the mix we want to fix but no one touches ever

what we know, we KNOW is always at the center there’s a door

we knock and knock and kick the wood but cannot enter

like a monkey grasps his food and keeps his hand so stuck so frozen

what the hell, we have to let it go stop clinging to our right, our might

our rotten self and staunch the bleeding, no one’s leading

all just follow this way that way on the surface storm is coming

drums are drumming but the sound is drowned by weeping

creeping up knee deep in rage we leap, all so surprised to find

it’s US not THEM, WE have to be the father, mother, sister, brother

for each other, EACH is precious, EACH is special, ALL are crucial

to survival, every loss in death or life diminishes and finishes the coffin nails

we are a chain our dna, our history, a convoluted mystery

a constant pattern of election then rejection events conspire to reconnection

a spark divine, love for creation, yet birthing seeds of self-destruction

drugged by image constant movement busy busy blur the lines

build a hideout cave to crouch in, turn the lights out, shut the blinds

we like to say we’re different, kinder, better, smarter, kneeling at the perfect altar

never stopping to discern, we set ourselves as little gods, then falter

stumble on our souls refusing to acknowledge cost we’re lost and yet

the hope that lives in each potential when we see that you are me

and I am you all swimming in a great deep sea, starving though to love is free

to feed each other, hold a hand, the only way to reach the sand

the water rising, talk is cheap, deep and deeper, still we sleep

wake, arise, the need is great, stop bailing water, fix the boat

all together we sink or float.

Sky Dancing

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the clouds are busy

dancing twirling

building castles

boiling, swirling

dressed in homespun

verse and chorus

every step, performance for us

waves of music

played by wind

partners changing

dip and spin

then joy poured out

tears wash the earth

wiped clean by sun

the sky gives birth

to clouds again

and more and more

while on the ground

we dream to soar

 

Photo Credit: Tommy Stone

Dusk

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clouds may hide the sun

but cannot hide the light

through grey of dusk

a blush still peeks

soft as eyelash

on pink soft cheeks

silken brush till day is done

calls forth the stars to say goodnight

 

Photo Credit Tommy Stone