Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Thoughts on Old Emily...and how she met Mr. Toad

A friend of mine  and I were sharing about the seeming plethora of ways in which death has been influencing our lives.  The affects of death, we are finding, range from the barely noticeable (until they are suddenly screaming in your face) to the blindingly unavoidable (until they morph into something new).  

The experiences are crazy.  That's the best way to describe them.  Crazy.  Pain...crazy. Changes...crazy.  Thoughts...crazy. Spiritual life...crazy.  Home life...crazy.  Work life...crazy. Inner guessed it...CRAZY!  None of it seems predictable or stable.  

The image of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride comes to mind.

Only...this ride is real...and not really what a person might consider as a pleasure cruise.  It's dangerous.  And people get hurt.  People are hurting right from the start.

After chatting with my friend, and then making the long drive home from my office, the opening lines of a famous Emily Dickinson poem came to mind...

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me

Are you kidding, Emily?!?!  This is no kindly stop on the continuum of life! What I'm seeing here is absolute hell!!!

Obviously, dear Emily's genteel characterization of death--Death, the kind gentleman who offers a glimpse of eternity and immortality--seemed far less elegant and poetic to me today than it has in all my years of studying literature.

In the past few years, death has made several haltingly awful stops in my life and in the lives of people I cherish.  I have listened to anguished parents, children, siblings, and spouses all but screaming at the top of their lungs after Death made his UNkind stops at their doorsteps. I have wept and grieved and wailed myself.  I have held my little girl as she has wept and grieved and wailed. 

The scenic route through the Valley of the Shadow of Death is pretty gruesome.  You NEED anti-emetics...big time!

And the thing of it is that when Death drags you on his tour de force through YOUR don't make a solo journey...though you never feel more alone.  Everyone in your home, everyone who matters to you, and everyone to whom you matter, is propelled into desert places, into the vortex of fear, into confusion and suffering, into a community of wandering mourners who cannot seem to settle down.  

No one knows what is coming next. No one knows themselves. No one knows each other. No one knows where they are or where they are going. No one knows their rights or where they stand. Nothing is certain except that Death came and left tears and uncertainty in his wake.

Death, I hate to be the one to tell you, but you're a jerk and nobody likes you.  You have no real friends.  Your breath is bad.  You stink. You're ugly. To put it plainly...I hate you.  Oh...and by the way, my dad, He said to tell you

These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Revelation 7:15-17). 

And guess what else He said?  He said,

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:4).

You are still the worst person I know, Death, and I will hate you until I die. But when you think you've had the last word, know that it will just be the last word you ever have with me because where I'll be you can never go.  You lose.  That's how the story ends.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Howl of Agony

I’ve already lost all hope
I don’t wait for joyful hours;
In fact, night and day grieving
I howl my agonies,
And as I suffer, I consume myself
And ask for death.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lord, Connect the Dots

A message I'd read and re-read before
Concealed, in plain sight, a wide open door
A portal to seeing, a portal to prayer
Yet only today I noticed it there

I'd read the same words numerous times
I'd read the same words for something to find
But today was the day this thing was revealed
Though I am not sure what remains concealed

Yet the haze of connection is coming to light
I see three disciples involved in one strife
A terrible tearing at hearts with one goal
May yet be You rising from wounds to these souls

Dear Jesus, I see more than one common thread
In three broken hearts that haven't all met
I ask you, O Father, to repair these three pots
I ask you, O Lord, to connect these three dots

A shadow of mercy seems just out of reach
Perhaps there is something now ready to teach
I see three disciples with more life to live
But in order to do it they have to forgive

Open the path then, Lord, flood it with Light
Close off the darkness that's shutting out sight
You have all power both here and above
Connect three disciples through your perfect love

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Complicit in Literacy

Charles Schuster, Associate Dean of Humanities at University of Wisconsin-Milwaulkee says, 

"Literacy is the power to be able to make oneself heard and felt, to signify. Literacy is the way in which we make ourselves meaningful not only to others but through the other to ourselves."*

It would be more than easy to read that statement, and have a stupid look wash over your face as you emit a spontaneous, "Huh???"

So let me try to explain, because it's actually a pretty important to us all in MANY circumstances...

What Schuster means is that literacy is more than just the ability to read and write.  It is several things all at once.

Literacy is
  • having power,
  • having ability,
  • being heard,
  • being felt,
  • operating from a shared system of signs and signals,
  • making ourselves meaningful to others,
  • and receiving from others confirmation/affirmation of the meaning we have made.
That's SEVEN distinct processes!  And a weakness in any one of them can have devastating consequences for anyone trying to communicate.

Age, gender, social status, economic status, physical size, emotional/psychological wounds, spirituality, and the setting of someone's effort to communicate (just to name a few) can determine who has the just power and/or the ability to make meaning in a situation.

Being heard and felt  (being interpreted and experienced in the ways you intend) is very much dependent on a mutually understood and agreed upon set of signals, and an equally mutual set of rules to govern them.

Making ourselves meaningful, and receiving confirmation and/or affirmation (or validation) of that meaning takes skill, patience, love, and energy!

Whew!  Is it any wonder that lines get crossed and people get hurt, left out, disappointed, and wounded? It's kind of a miracle to have enough of those seven elements in place at once between two people, let alone many, in order for them both to be considered literate. Right?  We have to be intentional and complicit in supporting one another's literacy--recognizing and making beneficial adjustments to the various elements of our own individual literacy in order to have the most healthy and beneficial interactions.

It sounds like so much much that you might not want to have anything more than the most superficial communications with people.  But what if the whole issue of literacy could be solved through the guidance and wisdom of the Bible.

Matthew 22:37-39

New International Version (NIV)
 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

New International Version (NIV)
 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 8 Love never fails.

If we're living out the call to love in these ways, then maybe the literacy playing field is more level--fair.

Tall order?  Maybe...but a noble goal.

* from "The Ideology of Literacy: A Bakhtinian Perspective"

Crush. Kill. Destroy.

I'm reminded again of the fragility of the human spirit, and the enduring power of words.

My eldest cousin was the perpetrator of many dangerous, painful, inappropriate, and grievous crimes against my body and spirit.  One of her most enduring legacies in my life (at least of the ones I'm willing to share publicly) was generated through a collection of dolls she had at her house--Johnny & Jane West.

The accessory pieces were often tiny and rather fragile for young hands.  I accidentally broke a piece of Jane West's horse tack while unsaddling her horse.  For the remainder of my visit, my cousin walked around me when no adults were present, and she flailed her arms like Robby the Robot in the Lost In Space re-run we had viewed the day before.  

"Crush. Kill. Destroy."
She cruelly repeated the words over and over again, and never truly forgave my offense.

In the TV show, Robby the Robot had run amuck and was out to destroy everything in his path.  He was dangerous and willful. He was inhuman and virtually inhumane--capable of nothing better.

Fast forward 40 years.
This has been a rough week marked by some relational misunderstandings and consequent strife...not a happy time.  For days I couldn't put my finger on it, but this morning I realized that the core-slashing wound of those words--words which were compounded and supported by even worse yet similar ones at home--were speaking out from the dead place in my soul where they resided...right next to the sorrow over having accidentally wounded a loved one.  "Crush. Kill. Destroy."  Repeat ad nauseum.

Of course, it is my job to reply to that message with God's Truth about me--with the love and comfort that the Almighty has for a badly mistreated little girl, and the wisdom He has for the woman she's become.  Still, I am reminded again, today, of the power that words have to harm or to heal.  I am reminded to study and be judicious with my own words. 

Be careful out there.

Proverbs 18:21

The Message (MSG)
 21 Words kill, words give life;
   they're either poison or fruit—you choose.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Kitchen Table Notes

Dear "Mom"
I know you're totally toast and dealing with heavy mom-stuff that us kids aren't supposed to know about or see. We can pretty much handle all the day-to-day stuff, and even some momming of one another a lot of the time. You'd be so proud of us if you could see us in action.  We don't want to embarrass you by poking our noses in on your stuff, or by taking over jobs that you like to do, though, so don't be too tough on us if we seem like we don't care...or if we ask too much or too little of you.  We don't mind being a little mixed up because we love you.  We just like knowing you're home and ours.
One of your daughters
P.S. - Left a box of pretty tissues on your nightstand, and prayed for you this morning. 

Hey "Sis"
I stopped by, but you weren't home so I let myself in and took out the trash for you.  Girl! That's a lot of tissues!!!  What's happening? You know you can always call me...even if I do manage to say just the wrong thing and totally bug you. But we're still stuck together like glue forever, to me. I have chocolate. You get the wine. No matter what's on you're heart I'm here and promise not to judge you.
I love you...
Your other sister
P.S. - Went to COSTCO and got you a case of Kleenex. :'(  Praying. I promise!!!

Alright girlfriend...I know you're in there, and I know it's bad times. 
There was a package by your door, so I used my key and brought the box in for ya. I was just stopping by to bring you dinner and a plate of chocolate chips...just because. Saw the trash collector in front of your house and tossing a case of empty snot boxes into the truck. Left you the new mascara I bought for myself, and I'm reminding you that I seen you without any...and worse...and I never tell anyone.  I'll call later tonight. Answer even if you're a mess.  Don't make me hunt your butt down. You know I will. Hahahahah...
Your home girl! (Ha!)
P.S. - Called my stock broker. Bought you 100 shares of Puffs (Kleenex are murder on the nose) and left my grandma's hanky on your pillow. (Yes! It's clean!!!)  Can I come back later and pray with you?  Praying everyday all the time anyway...for real!!!

Hey lady...sorry to bug you, but...
I was behind you in the grocery store, and noticed that you dropped this pretty handkerchief.  I called after you, but I guess you didn't hear me.  I followed you home, and rang the bell, but you didn't answer.  You left your keys in the door, and that didn't seem safe, so I took 'em out and left them here on the table with the hanky.  Hope you're OK. Had a Bible in my purse. Left that for you too. Check out Isaiah 46:3b-4.
The gal behind you in Publix
P.S. - That's really pretty hanky.  My grandma had one just like it.  :)  I prayed for you all the way here.  I'll remember you again tonight before I go to bed.

My daughter...
I've heard so many prayers with your name in them.  And I have heard all of your cries, even the ones you didn't utter. I've been right here with you the whole time.  Who do you think brought all the tissues? Talk to me. Walk with me. Rest in me.  I'll dry every tear, and I'll always bring you help...even when you don't know what to ask for.
Eternally yours,
Your Father...God