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Archive for May 2008

may, august, november, may

though the air is chilly
and the wind is picking up,
as it blows, I hold on.

I am rustled and tossed,
beaten.
and still I hold on for my life;
for fear of blowing
away.

this was once so comforting.
my place of belonging,
of safety, growth.
but now
the hours of light are fewer
and the blowing
tears me.

it is here.
the coldness.

but, I will clothe myself in warmth.

I will be golden.
I will be rich and deep.
I will choose red and orange.
I will set the limbs
on fire.
I will ride the wind.
it rips my younger dreams
but I will use it.
I will fly.

I will gather up all that is in me,
and I will let go.
I will use every last strength,
every resolve.
I will let go.

the release.

and I soar
scattering my gold.
my brilliant fire
scorching the sky.
I am free.

and though I fall down for some dying,
I am driven by that moment
whey I fly.

and yet
I am the tree.
now laid bare and naked.
by the release
exposed
hybernating.

and then comes the spring.

Thinking About Oxen

“Where no oxen are, the manger is clean.  But, much increase comes by the strength of the ox.” (Proverbs 14:4)

I love the book of Proverbs in the Bible.  It’s the drive-by shooting approach to wisdom.  Each little kernel of truth is maybe one or two sentences arranged in one or two verses without much context or explanation.  Maybe it’s the time of day, but sometimes I’m left thinking, “Hold on.  I know this is profound, probably even life-changing or relationship changing or more, but I’m gonna need a minute.”  

This particular proverb stood out to me today as a jewel of wisdom to help me keep my eyes on the main thing.

I’m one of those that derives a certain amount of comfort and security from being in an orderly, relatively clean space – at least as orderly and clean as you can get with a somewhat pack-rat mommy, husband, dog, cat, two toddlers, one on the way, and all the “stuff” that comes with each.  Nevertheless, we do try.  And while our ordering system may not be readily apparent to the naked eye, it IS ours and we like it.  I have found that when my surroundings are in chaos, so is my brain.  An uncluttered home frees up an uncluttered mind and spirit.

Which brings me to my predicament…
Saturday was partially spent cleaning and getting our home to a nice state of relative calm.  Then, not even 12 hours later, I’m faced with a sink full of syrupy dishes, carpet littered with cupcake/french fry bits and floors dotted with mud.  Plus, various nap time pauses and my own 6-months-pregnant lack of energy have left my nesting projects in the boys’ rooms in a more chaotic state than when I started.  My first instinct:  run screaming from the house.

Then, I see Proverbs 14:4 — cleverly posted above the stove.
“Where no oxen are, the manger is clean.  But, much increase comes by the strength of the ox.”

Now, I’m no oxen expert, but I’m guessing that they can produce quite a mess.  And, the only way to avoid it is not to have them in my manger.  Yes, that might help the barn stay spotless, but look at the “increase” I’m missing.  It’s obvious.  The strengths of the oxen FAR outweigh their mess.

When it comes right down to it:  No amount of sticky fingerprints or clothes-strewn rooms or muddy floors could ever diminish the great joy I receive from the family God has given me.  Those giggles and squeals, drum beats and bouncing balls are a priceless increase.  So, we live with a few crumbs, and our coffee table has honey mustard stains.  At least we’re all in the same room; everyone is healthy and growing and (at the moment) smiling; and I can grab them and kiss them any time I want.  I am a wiser woman when I keep my focus on the blessing and my thoughts away from trivial complaints.

Lesson learned — again today.

You’ll Cut Your Eyes!

My grandparents lived on a farm outside Macon, Mississippi that was just a few acres of pasture with a small herd of cattle my Dad nurtured.  As a child, I spent most weekends there enjoying the special attention of my grandfather and indulging in the few tomboy traits I possess.

Saturday adventures with Grandaddy would sometimes include a trek through the pasture behind the house or behind the beagle pens.  As I walked or ran or jumped along, carefree and fascinated by thistle bushes, I would inevitably hear “You’ll cut your foot!”

Now, I’ll leave to your imagination a picture of the pitfalls (or piles) to which my grandfather was referring – the ones littering the grass of a cow pasture.  Needless to say, I was oblivious to the stinky mess that awaited my Buster Browns.  “You’ll cut your foot” was Grandaddy’s code phrase of sorts, a warning the entire family had learned to interpret as “look down, now.”  It was a call to pay attention, because every step isn’t necessarily a solid one.  But, when you’re walking through a cow pasture, what do you expect?

As I think about paying attention and absorbing so much of the world around me with intention, I can hear a warning in my mind – “You’ll cut your eyes!”  The fact is; there are a lot of well-manicured lawns out there, a lot of beautiful, worthy landscapes… and a lot of cow pastures. Not everything – every site, every book, every picture, every news item, every tv show, every personal attitude, every opinion – is worthy of my attention.  

My dictionary widget describes a worthless thing as something without value or use.  Some pursuits are profit-less, of no benefit, even detrimental. Why would I want to muddy my vision and stink up my perspective by spending my attention on what is worthless?  

It’s true that determining what is valuable is somewhat of a subjective thing.  However, I believe that there are some core universal “things” of value:

People.  
Not necessarily their ideas or attitudes or opinions – there’s plenty of stinkiness there – but, people.  The Bible teaches that because God created each of us (knit us together in our mother’s wombs [psalm 139]), each individual is a soul, a unique person of infinite worth to God.  If it matters to Him, then it ought to matter to me.  

Truth.
It doesn’t change.  If it’s true, it’s always true.  If it’s not, it never is.  The Bible teaches that the word of God will stand forever.  To me, that’s the best source of what is true and what is false, and the more relative aspects of what is worthy and what is garbage.

Beyond those universals, I’m left to create my own filtering system of value, a visionometer of what is worthy of attention.  I can wisely use this verse as a good guideline:

Whatever is true
whatever is honorable
whatever is right
whatever is pure
whatever is lovely
whatever is of good repute
if there is any excellence 
and if anything worthy of praise, 
dwell on these things.
(philipians 4:8)

This verse is not to say that I should ignore everything ugly or disturbing around me and only “see” the pretty stuff.  That’s not just naive; it’s ridiculous.  But, even the ugly, hard things can lead us to a place of truth, honor, and purity.  It’s up to me to determine if the potential is there.

I’m still working on that visionometer, but my goal for myself and for EyeJunkie is to commit with Israel’s King David, the poet, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.” (psalm 101:3)

Human Writes.

115 pages. That was the sum of Elie Wiesel’s Night, an account of the Nobel Laureate’s imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps.  I believe it was toward the end of page 7 that I got up from my chair, walked to my bedroom, and put the book behind several others in a basket under my bedside table.  I actually consciously thought, “I’ll just pretend I don’t have the book.”  I even thought of hiding it under the bed.

Page 7 was Mr. Wiesel’s account of how Moishe the Beadle (his Kabbalist tutor) miraculously survived his stay at an early Polish Gestapo work camp.  He returned to the village warning whoever would listen of the experiences in store for the Jews in hopes they could “ready” themselves while there was still time.  No one wanted to listen.  The poignant regret of that fact made me want to close the book, for it was inevitable foreshadowing of the rest of the story.

I know.  It was a strange reaction, but the memoir from the first sentence was so powerful, almost devastating, to me that I wanted to throw it away without reading any more.  But, I didn’t have the nerve.  Somehow I felt that I owed it to Mr. Wiesel to read his words.  If he had survived the horror described in that book and been bold enough to record it, how could I possibly NOT show him at least the courtesy of reading it, acknowledging it?

It was the first time I had read a personal account of a Holocaust survivor.  I think that is the reason why this book came to mind when I was contemplating an article on Human Rights.  I came across an initiative from Bloggers Unite encouraging writers to blog about Human Rights on May 15 as a way of bringing more awareness to the issues.

As I thought about my own perspective on human rights, it seemed that Human Writes was a more appropriate term.  You see, a major barrier to our engagement in these issues is that the statistics on the grossest forms of human rights violations are simply numbing.  Large numbers become impersonal and lose their meaning.  But, when one human writes of his own experiences, how can we dare to look away without asking questions? How do we summon that kind of boldness?

In Elie Wiesel’s speech accepting the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize (38 years to the day, ironically, after the United Nations adopted its Declaration of Human Rights), he said, “…I have tried to keep memory alive, I have tried to fight those who would forget.  Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.”

As I open the burden of Night again, I see that Mr. Wiesel does not share OUR luxury of forgetting.  For he writes of his first night at Birkenau:

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.

Never shall I forget that smoke.

Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.

Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.

Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.

Never.

The issue of human rights brings a new dimension to “paying attention,” the pursuit of this website.  It requires a harsh confrontation with the raw, cruel capabilities of human beings; the realization that the events of Elie Wiesel’s Night did not happen in the 12th century, but less than 70 years ago – one lifespan.  Yet, similar cruelties are occuring all over the world even as I write.  And if I am honest, I admit that the seeds of those mind-boggling statistics occur even in my own little hometown every day. Each time someone (even I) with words or looks or actions seeks to diminish the infinite worth of another human being created in God’s image, we have contributed to the cruelty, as if acknowledging the worth of another somehow diminishes my own.

Elie Wiesel once asked Moeshe the Beadle,  “why do you pray?”  The answer – “I pray to the God within me for the strength to ask Him the real questions.”

I pray for that same strength – to ask God the hard questions, to ask myself the hard questions, and to have the courage to face the answers.

the work of angel wings

angel wings are all around us
in an invisible embrace.
they are the rustle of leaves on a tree
as we walk by.
they are the tiny stars we can barely see
and the halo around the lights at night.

the angels are our companions.

they see us when noone is there
with eyes that soothe a troubled spirit.
they sing us the songs in our head.

angel wings shoo away some of our memories
when we need more time to say goodbye.
they stir up the gentle breeze
of a deep breath and a sigh when we start again.
they soak up our tears
and they fan the sparkle in our eyes when we laugh.

at times the angels back away
when they sense someone has seen them
and the brush of their wings.
when they know one of us has learned their way
and thus joined the myriad.

listen…
you can hear the quiet flutter of flight.
the moment when the eyes
or the voice
or the hands of a human
takes over
to do the work of angel wings.

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