Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Meanest Mom

This is for my daughter, who works so hard to keep it all together.

My mom is the meanest mom for blocks
she makes me sort and fold my socks
my mom is the meanest mom, oh man!
I must feed the cat and clean out her pan
make my bed, make my lunch, pick up my messes
why she’s so awful, I only have guesses.

Other kids’ mothers for sure aren’t that way
they do their work and let their kids play
my mom says someday I will be older
and have a burden I’ll need to shoulder
I’ll need to do my part, says she
somehow she thinks she’s helping me!

Today I struggled down the stairs
with a  trash can full of old parts and spares
of pieces of toys I hide under my bed
that make my mommy just shake her head
then I put the can back where it used to be
and my mommy, she turned and smiled at me.

The tired in her eyes just sparkled away
I felt a good feeling that lasted all day
maybe my mom is not really that mean
maybe she needs me to help her keep clean
the house we all live in and mess up each day
so she can have time to go out and play. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Four Spiritual Questions

I've given a lot of thought to how to boil down the Christian message to the essentials in a way that people who struggle with their identity can grasp.  I know my readers are shy about responding, but any feedback would be appreciated.  

1.      Who am I? 
It depends on who you ask. I like the explanation Jesus gives us.  You are a sinner.  That’s who you are. You are God’s child, and a sinner.

2.      What do I about that?
Jesus is clear and direct in his answer when he says I am the way, the truth and the life.   After that, the fun begins. We each work out our salvation – the full implication of what it means to be a sinner saved by grace – with fear and trembling. Fear in the sense of the respect we give to the message and its giver; trembling in full appreciation of the joy we receive when we travel that path.

3.      What if I don’t like the answer?
You are free to choose another answer, but remember -- not making a choice is a choice. You live on the Devil’s playground and you can play there until Kingdom come or you can join the family of God and then the question – who am I? – becomes irrelevant. The question becomes, who are You, God?

4.      How do I join God’s family?
Allow God to work in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. God is love. If you spend your life being genuine, loving your wife/husband/neighbor/brother as yourself, holding fast to what is good, being patient and kind, bearing, believing, hoping and enduring, your reward is love. You become love. That’s who you are in Christ Jesus because he first loved you. Apart from Him you don’t have the genuine fruits of love. Take your eyes off Him and you lose the power to love perfectly.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Don't get even, get mad!

Today I paced around my house with a hammer in my hand looking for a head to bash. My husband scuttled downstairs and stayed there. The painter working in the upstairs bathroom stayed out of sight.  I won’t say whose head I wanted to bash, but it wasn’t one of those two heads. 

I wanted to crack open this head with a sharp clean blow and peer inside, then reach for a box of brains and dump them in,  followed by a healthy measure of common sense and compassion. While I’m at it, I might like to do some rewiring.

Getting so riled up pretty much ruined my whole day, because from outrage it’s not too much of a jump to get in God’s face and rail at Him – do something!

At our book study tonight we talked about whether living life fully requires us to fully experience our feelings, both good and bad.  There is a latency in the way I experience feelings, a built in time delay. It can be hours or days before it hits me!!! First, I analyze a situation. Then I look for a label to paste on the offending behavior so it will make sense to me. Then I look to God for an answer, but He seems to have a built in latency in His response as well. Meanwhile, I am full of this feeling that must needs expression.

As the book we are studying is about giving thanks for everyday blessings, I will now give thanks for animation. Visualizing committing murderous mayhem on a cartoon head is a cathartic release for my pent-up frustration with everything that is wrong with world that just happens to find it’s fullness in this one individual. It’s an “aha” moment to realize that the hours my children spent watching a fat beaked black duck bop a wiseacre rabbit (or the other way around, I forget) were more productive than I realized and may actually have kept them out the penitentiary.

Of course, the place I need to get to is prayer for a soul who is in distress and causing distress. While I am cracking an imaginary head, the Christ who breaks His heart to heal ours (one thousand gifts by Ann Voskamp, p. 40) breaks a real heart.

I, too, am heartbroken.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Springtime in the Mountains

Driving on our mountain road I saw an amorous vulture hovering upright near the top of a tree. He opened his wings like a theatre curtain and bared his intentions to some little vixen hiding in the pines. The sunlight glanced off his great  glossy wings spread in horaltic stance and he expressed his ardor in a slow, seductive, “come hither” movement.

The doe that settled in at the end of the front porch breezeway grew a big belly and disappeared. She’ll be back with twin or triplets – it’s been a good year for these foragers. Her man came by one evening, walked right up the front porch stairs and eyed us through the screen door.

Old Man Winter is not giving up without a fight this year. My sunflowers that have just settled into their pot and wiggled their roots down into the dirt are in for a nasty surprise. Tomorrow the Old Man plans to hurl everything he has left in his arsenal at pretty Spring – thunder, lightening, fierce wind and snow.

The oak trees shake the pollen from their leafy crowns like long haired dogs rising from creek beds to rattle their bones and let the water fly. The detritus coats our eyes and makes us itch and weep.  It cakes all we possess with scummy, soggy gold muck.

The birds don’t gather on the deck off our bedroom to fight for space in the fountain like they used to. They lost their home in the last big storm – the mighty live oak tree that nested so many of them pulled itself out of the ground and crashed to the forest floor, groaning in protest as it went. It left behind a fan club of smaller trees blinking in unfamiliar sunlight -- new real estate to be explored by the jays and finches, hummingbirds and sparrows.

We’ve set the table a bit early for Spring, who wanders into our mountains on her own timetable. We’ll be glad to see her when she finally arrives.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Feeling Lucky?

I’ve had cause to contemplate the difference between luck and blessing as I’ve listened to different folks express thanks for the sun that shined on an event or the serendipity that got them to where they hoped to go. Those who credit luck may also express appreciation. They send up thanks, like balloons, trusting that credit will be received where credit is due. God or no God, everyone acknowledges that a thankful heart is a happy heart.

Those who see blessing in the happy outcome have a different perspective.  Luck just happens. Blessing is bestowed. Luck is impersonal. You lucked out and that makes you happy. Blessing is personal. God gets the credit and that fills you with joy.

Luck can be appreciated, but blessing can be appropriated. You can take ownership of it and assign it a value because you receive it as a gift. Better than that, you can pass it on.  That sunny day created just for you is a reminder that God cares. Your thankful prayer hits the target of God’s heart. Most likely it radiates out like the sun itself, asking the Creator to shine His blessing on those you love. And he does.

Of course, should the rain fall you have a choice.  Deem it unlucky, or look for the blessing in the rain.  I’m betting you’ll find it.  

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Writer's Mission

A friend asked me what I was trying to do with my writing. When I didn’t say I hoped to publish the great American novel and achieve fame and fortune she released the breath she was holding and the fear in her eyes faded. Most people believe that if you are a real writer you would be published; if you call yourself a writer prematurely you must be deluded. Or worse.

What I did say was – I want to grow as a writer. What I forgot to add was – I want to encounter truth and experience 1John 1:14, “We are writing these things that our joy may be complete.”

Of course every writer needs an audience. A journal writer requires an audience of one, a blogger may target family, friends and fellow travelers, a novelist hopes to reach the hearts and minds of many more,

The path to publication has widened, but it’s weedy. It reminds me of a neighbor who sought my advice on how to get her daughter on stage because my daughter was having a measure of local success. I mentioned the years of ballet lessons and small roles on rented stages and suggested she enroll her daughter in a community theater class at the recreation center.  She gave me a withering look and spit out in frustration that she had no time for that, her daughter wanted to be famous.  I backed away, much as my friend was prepared to do if I had started pitching the draft of my novel.

Here’s the reality. Writing is a lifestyle. It requires that you plant yourself daily in a chair for hours and focus, then deal with the aftermath in a healthy way. Refuel your body by walking with a friend and breathing fresh air. (Helps you keep your friends.) Replenish your soul by seeking new vistas to rest your eyes on while you nurture the seeds of inspiration scattered in your brain. Refresh your depleted spirit in acts of appreciation.  

Ramping it up to be better than you are also requires productive downtime.   Resting and reading rather than watching C.S.I. Detectives Who’ve Moved to the Dark Side while emailing, posting and killing a bottle of wine (unless you are analyzing plot lines). 

It’s an extravagant lifestyle. Time is yours to account for and waste, Rewards are joy in discovery, hope that you will touch a heart and, let’s not kid ourselves, the possibility you might one day snag a brass ring on the go round.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Picking Paint

Picking paint colors has all the fun quotient of starting a new piece of writing. The burst of inspiration – I’m going to write a novel/redecorate my bathroom; the joy of confirmation – the theme will be regret and renewal/ relaxing at the spa; the thrill of beginning the project – the setting will be Basque regions of Spain and California/the beach and ocean. My purpose is clear.

After choosing shower and floor tile and trim I wade into the waters of choosing colors to paint the walls. Like I do in writing, I will pay attention to current trends. I’ll paint each wall a different color. So far, I’m on terra firma. The trim is small sea glass tile squares in shades of green, blue and taupe. This will dictate my color choice.

As in writing, now I hit the wall. My imagination has driven me into unknown territory. What do I know about Basque culture/tone and hue and color saturation?

In possession of the knowledge that I do have – I want to balance cool ocean tones with a warm-toned taupe accent wall – I head to the paint store. Surely someone who knows color can help me sort through the myriad chips of icy blues, grey greens and intense taupes. I know I’m sunk when the young girl behind the counter says, you mean beige? I’m on my own here.

I give silent respectful acknowledgement to the art majors and interior designers of the world and head to the section where some marketing genius has arranged colors in collections and named them things like Exuberance, Immolation, Au Natural and Zen Meditation. Now we’re talking. How wrong can I go in a bathroom painted with colors from a collection labeled Relaxation or Sea Breezes?

For my walls, I choose Early Morning Climb to grace the toilet and Crystal Geyser to surround my tub. I could make a case for doing it the other way around. The accent wall at one end will be Sea Hawk and in a moment of madness, I add a fourth color. I will paint the opposite wall Mountain Stream. I have a whole short story going in this bathroom.

The moral is this: When a project looms large and threatens to confuse you, use your words.