An Ode to Delightful Complexity

So, in a world where square pegs are being rammed fruitlessly at round holes and we must suffer the scraping pull of being painted with broad strokes, it is worthy I think to remember complexity, particularly human complexity, which defies neat categorization and mass denigration.

I give you my father. Raised on a farm in North Dakota, he grew up with a love for shooting good guns, driving fast cars, and he wore sneakers with the stars and stripes on them. He worked in lumberyards first in North Dakota, and then, when I was a tot, in Montana.

He is quiet about his faith, but it is deep. He eschews social media and technology as a whole as much as he can. He loves the smell of wood, his labrador dogs, watching the wildlife on the 80-some acres in the mountains where he lives with my Mom, and meat and potatoes three meals a day. He collects and restores old firearms, but doesn’t hunt much anymore as he gets so much more satisfaction out of watching the wildlife.

He’s been a lifelong Republican and a classic conservative. He isn’t loud about it; he isn’t loud about anything really. He’s not to be found standing on soap boxes and holding sway.

But hear this: he’s telling everyone to get vaccinated. He wore masks, he social distanced (okay, that was easy for him on 80 acres with an introvert personality), and as soon as he could, he got his shots. He called us kids up and asked if we’d gotten ours. Despite his reserved and unflowery nature, he is basically shouting his love for us. As he told me over coffee last week, “These people are afraid of ‘experimental vaccines’, but you know what? If you get sick with the virus, are you going to refuse experimental drugs to save your life?”

So…a conservative, gun-loving Republican is encouraging his loved ones to get vaccinated. I think he just jumped out of some boxes.

Complexity.

Like my pro-choice atheist friend who made me a remembrance necklace for my miscarried child. Like my xenophobic friend who made sure we had meat on our table during a hard time.

If you’ve ever commented on a post of mine and had a hearty argument with one of my friends, you may be perplexed at the, um, diversity of opinion, the colorfulness of the language, and the varying quality of civility expressed there. I’ve been asked many MANY times “Why are you friends with so-and-so?!?”

I will tell you. Complexity. The glory of God shines out of each person so strongly that their weaknesses, their brokenness; well, they cannot compete with that light. I’d have to ignore so very much good in order to focus on the shadows, and even then, haven’t I cracks, flaws, and darkness too?Let us hold tenaciously to encountering each human as complex, not as a deplorable, a libtard, a leftist, a Trumpophile, etc.

Meet every person you meet.

My father at 18.

Loose Cannon; The Struggle Towards A Prayer Rule

It isn’t that I don’t pray. As a mother of six children, I feel like prayer comes with my breaths, and not just when a son is barreling down our steep hill on a wobbly bike at a speedy clip. Not just when my teen daughter pulls away from our house in her own car, stretching her wings a bit further. Not when a Very Big Problem breezes through our front door and puts itself on the couch, immovable and menacing. No, not just then, but when washing dishes and pulling weeds, and over sleeping kids burrowed into their pillows.

It isn’t that I don’t pray, but I am an unruly soldier, see?

“Father, can you give me a rule of prayer?” I asked, not knowing how hard I’d fail at keeping it.

He told me to say morning and evening prayers. They aren’t long; they aren’t arduous. It is a beginning, not a feat. A starting place, not a finish line. “Okay; I’ll probably fail. I’ll try.”

So, I peer around the merlon with my bow tautly drawn, an arrow sighted upon the enemy. Releasing the arrow with an exhale I watch it strike the mark. There is nothing amiss with that. But when my general gives the command to fire, where am I? Asleep, slumped against the parapet? Daydreaming? My bowline slack, my arrows unfired? I wasn’t obedient to my General; I wasn’t a disciplined soldier. I couldn’t be counted on to be ready when He gave the command to loose my arrow. He knows the enemy better than I; that day’s beginning and day’s end need to be guarded especially by the arrows of prayer, that listening to the General is essential for my survival and the efficacy of my fight. That I must start and end my days fully in His presence, paying attention with mind and heart to Him.

I can say with St. Paul that the good I should do, I do not do. Or I do it so hit and miss that I am unreliable at best.

I want to be a reliable soldier; I need to be one. Please pray for me.

In the Midst of My Days

I was almost hit by a truck tonight.

I took a walk to enjoy the brisk, chilly air and was halfway across a street at a crossing when a truck from a busy street whipped in, not seeing me at all. I was glad of my sturdy shoes as I was able to break into a run just in time. Safely on the curb I turned to look at the driver. She had stopped and was just staring at me in horror. I said nothing; I did not trust my words to be good ones, and walked home, shaky but whole.

Two hours ago I received an icon of Archangel Michael in the mail. I am grateful for the protection of the angels who’ve rescued me numerous times from bears, a kidnapper, a knife-wielding assailant, ships while rowing, and kidney failure, to mention a few.

Let us thank God for our breath, for our bodies which still have time to repent and worship.

I Keep Them

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In my heart

If you would look

You’d see a baby who only lived a few minutes after birth

And her brave and hurting mother singing amidst her grief

You’d see

Dear friends in crisis, with no rescue coming

You’d see cold Texans

And worried mothers at the border

And my elderly neighbors with memory loss.

They are there and I keep them.

They are to make free use of my tears;

They have rights to my prayers.

I cannot help, but I keep them

I keep them in my heart.

Like With Cats

Like with cats

Give up the chase

But rather be

The one that offers love

And has made

A pact with self

To never weigh on the scales of the heart

The measure of love received to love given.

There is no transaction here

I love because of love in me

Not to get at the love in you

I know the conquistador

A heart wishes to be

Expanding territory and demanding tributes

Taxing the conquered, occupying, ruling.

I would have you free.

Disinterest is not un-interest

It is interest without transaction

Here is this love, and I go.

So, the cat

She is feral-born and flighty

I pet her and walk away

While others scoop her up

And she stiffens and seeks escape.

This cat

Sleeps at my feet, follows me into the bathroom

Swirls through my legs as I cook

And we each give, you see

Without an equation.

And so, with people,

We cannot chase them

If they need to go, they need to go

And the love we bore

We can let the wind take it

Let it blow layer by layer to them

As we turn and go.

Echo and Rock

Echo and Rock

According to mercy

The children of God

Run, laughing into woods

Echo pursuing

Ducking under branches

Reaching to touch the lips still wet

With breath

That sent it forth

Smashing through

Colliding with the rocks

Who sent it back

In play, in volley

Will you make it back to me again, Echo?

Taunts the ageless rock

Born to wear lichen

Face shearing and calving

As pass thousands of years

But Echo ever visits

And for chief delight

The rock like a batter

Internally winds up

And cracks the faithful Echo

Back to the lips still wet from breath

And waits.

Strands

Strands

It is within this moment, see

All moments reach backward

And squeeze the hand

Of the one that came before

The other hand extended

To pass the baton of Present

To find itself now Past, 

Now bearing story.

So, as I said

It is within this moment

So brief and soon to fade 

To eye’s reach and skin’s touch

That so incongruently

We may, at any point

Ungrasp and unreach

Stretch time-loosed hands up

And pierce eternity 

Prayer, unbound by locks

Of minutes, hours, years

Flies outward, upward

And God inclines His ear

Speak, child

Love comes to meet you

I keep watch over the words

That come out of Time.

You are learning the way Home

The gossamer strands you tie to Me

Follow them when you die

When the dark huddles over you

And eyes no longer serve

Feel for the strands

And follow them out of Time

Bidding Past farewell and 

Say

I’m sorry 

For all the good I didn’t do

And the love I didn’t live

And shake free of Time’s tick and tock

And upend your pockets of numbers.

Gather forgiveness for what the locusts ate

And

In that moment, come.

St. Ia Rides a Leaf, A Review

I had the joy of reading this beautiful little board book by author Melinda Johnson which follows God’s miraculous provision for one of his saints. St. Ia was an Irish Christian who was called to serve as a missionary to the people of England in the 5th or 6th century. Having missed the ship that was sailing there, God provided her a leaf to bear her there.

I am so glad to share this miracle with my youngest kids, as so often we forget the magnificent ways that God is at work; indeed that He does startling things. That gives me a great deal of hope, and I know it will do the same for any kid blessed to have this read to them. What a gift to have the story of an ancient saint brought right into their own little hands, right into their imaginations and hearts with a sturdy book just for them.

A Reader’s Lament

A Reader’s Lament

Popping up, dropping down

And flashing from the margin

Look at me, look at this

Slinging sounds and catching fish

We know you want to read the news

But here darling, an ad for shoes.

I cannot read, I wail and gnash

Your stupid page is all awash

And know you that I always look away?

There’s words in here, you garish whore

Attention hog, cash-drunk bore

Substance lost in keno-blinking-flash.

Away with you, noisome beast

Hoarse hawker, attention leech

I shall not give you the satisfaction

Of commodifying my distraction

With appetite forsworn to sate

Choke on your own click bait.

Let It Die

Let It Die

It is okay to look Loss in the face

And reach out to run your hand along its cheek.

Sometimes it’s good to stare it in the eyes

And whisper “You wound, you always do.”

We drove past the family farm

A place we had no money to buy

And there it goes, to those with pockets deep and full

And I looked at Loss, my companion.

I lecture myself

To smother dreams, to stuff them away

To give no life to them

Do not look, do not hope

Let them die.

There was an 1800’s stone farmhouse on 10.5 acres

Deep windowsills, gleaming wood floors

A kitchen with a professional range

And long stone countertops.

I saw my children running through the woods

Playing in the stream

Curled up by the fireplace at night

I saw the scones lined up on that long counter

Tray after tray going into the oven

For the bed and breakfast guests the next morning.

The dream had curled around my heart

A dream I had no business having

I try you know

To stuff such into a box

But it’s hard to unwrap from my heart

To lift each tendril away when I’d rather embrace

The dream and move into it.

To box instead the sad Loss

And all of its shame and nausea

The way that it says

Nothing will change and you

Are pitiful. Ungrateful. Stupid.

I put the stone house

And all of its loveliness

And the scones, and the woods, and the crackle of the fire

Down into the box and

I let it die.

I don’t understand

And I don’t expect to

And more often than not I

Remember to live into the life I have with joy

But I will not pretend

That loss doesn’t stand beside me

And that my heart isn’t stacked

With boxes of dreams, dying.