Cheated by Grace

She shrugs the torn sleeve of her dress over her shoulder, trying in vain for a bit of modesty. While her flesh is hopelessly exposed, it is her heart that feels most raw.

They had surprised her, ripped her from a blissful slumber. She had lain there in his arms in the morning light, comforted after a night together. For too long she’d been alone, tired of being a shadow, of being dismissed and overlooked. Now, she had finally succumbed to one who attended her, broken her vow and turned for acceptance in someone else’s arms. It had been only once, and that seemed enough. For now, they had caught her.

Awoken from her bliss, she was dragged half-naked from his bed, tossed against the wall in a melee of insults and curses. Scrambling for any semblance of clothing, she had managed to slip her dress over her head as the temple leaders yelled and cursed at them both. Her lover, his eyes full of anger, shouted in return at them.

“Release her this instant!” He leaped out of bed to her defense forgetting himself.

“Shall we take you too, or just her?” the snarl masked by a long grey beard hurled the accusation at him. “It wouldn’t look very good for your position.” The last word hung in the air, an ominous threat to every fiber of her lover’s being.

He stopped. His flashing anger abetted a moment, cowering behind the fear in his eyes. She had seen it. She had seen how he was torn between duty and desire, love and honor. His eyes begged for an apology that she had had no energy to give.

Without another word, they had grabbed her, forcing her from his room, shoving her through his house, and dragging her through the town. She remained mute, finding that place within herself that she had visited far too often in her own marriage.

Now, she can hear the words of the crowd on her raking her over the lawful coals, feel their accusations seeping into her mind. The bruises on her arms pulse under her skin. The blood on her feet clots knitting with it chunks of stone from the road where she’d been dragged along. None too gently, they had tossed her in front of the man everyone called Rabbi. Now she sits, head low, dust her only true cover. Looking down at the earth on which she sits, she thinks to herself, I too shall be dust once this is all over.  

The questions and accusations whirl around her. “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
Now Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned but what sayest thou?” Their animosity mocks her.

She thinks of her husband, yet again away far from this place. Will he even notice that I’m gone? He hardly noticed me even in life. The angry voices of the magistrates ricochet off of her ears and away from her. The dust before her is her only friend.

From the corner of her eye, she sees another squatting in the dust. His poise is not as shaken as hers. He rests there, also focused on the earth.

The questions continue around them, ““If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. So, Rabbi, what say you?” Their cadence of their anger affects him not, and he continues his position.

Lifting her head, she considers this man. She’s heard of him, to be sure. Some say he is wise, the son of Yahweh even. Others insist he is a blasphemer, fit only for death. Yet, the calm she observes in him stirs the soul within her.

A curse fills the air, and someone else shouts,  “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”

In this moment his gaze meets hers. His eyes are kind, without alarm. With a barely perceptible smile from his lips, she feels his kindness deep within her. He stands, slowly, as though the world turns at his command.

His eyes scan the crowd, and they shush to a murmur.

Hands lifted in casual conversation, he addresses them. “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” For just a moment longer, he locks eyes with each of her accusers before stooping to the dirt again to continue his perusal of the earth.

This time, she notes that he uses his finger to write in the dirt, though what it is, she cannot tell.

Squeezing her eyes shut, she wills her mind away from the pain that will surely begin. Her back tenses, waiting for the first stone. She’s only ever seen a person stoned once before, and she was a small girl. Her mother had guided her away as soon as it was clear the person was dying. Hunching her shoulders, she prepares for it. The shuffling of feet around her becomes louder. The moment is now upon her, she is certain. Focusing on the blackness, she fights the desperation in the back of her throat.

Silence fills her mind. She waits.

A slight whisper of feet on dirt beside her alerts her. Opening her eyes, she sees only him, Rabbi. Looking down at her he says, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

Struggling to her feet, she looks around. Her mind takes a moment to register the changes around her. Where there was once a large crowd of angry people, there is only an empty courtyard outside the Temple.

Turning to him, she meets his eyes again, “No one, sir.” His smile is confident, full of love, yet tinged in sadness. Tears burn her eyes.

Looking directly at her, his voice rings deeply into her soul. “Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.”

He smiles once more before turning to leave.

She stands watching as he walks away. Tears sneak their way down her cheeks and fall from her chin. She looks at the stains they create in the dust. This man took from her the crowd’s attention, the shame, the embarrassment. This man saved her.

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Eclipsing Home

Darkness spread its fingers across the land, weaving its way in and out of the leaves on the trees, and shadowing the faces of the onlookers. Their cheap, plastic glasses gleamed, reflecting the ongoing eclipse. I watched in awe at their wonder. Crowds grouped together, heads upraised to stare at the heavens. This once in a lifetime experience moved them deeply, drawing them to stop in their daily habits to look upward. The miracle of it was more than they had hoped. And while they waited anxiously for science to describe this phenomena, my heart beat in anticipation for something greater.

Perhaps this was the day. Maybe, just maybe, we would all be fortunate to look heavenward for something even more magnificent than an eclipse. Maybe, just maybe, my savior would finally appear. And maybe, just maybe I could go home.

A Tweet ran across my phone screen that morning…

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”(Luke 12:25-28)

While the eclipse was ‘cool’, I hardly cared much about it at all as I went on with my daily activities. I had signed the permission form for my son to see it at school, promising not to sue if he died (wha?!?!). I had left a pair of glasses for my mom to check it out while the kids took their nap. And I had stuffed an extra pair in my purse in case I got the chance to see it too. But I had far bigger fish to fry than the sun and moon colliding, so I went on without much thought toward it at all. Until I saw that verse…

That’s when my heart started pounding- thudding with excitement. It was a physical manifestation of the excitement from somewhere deep within my soul. My savior could return on this day. He just might! I imagined what it would be like, to stand there gazing at a universal shift and see Jesus coming back for me. To see his face, finally…. To see his arms open wide, welcoming me home. So that darkness, which to everyone else signified a great solar occurrence, became a chance at hope for me. It became a glimpse of possibility to go home.

I find within myself a deep longing, one which words can hardly express, to just go home.

Recently, while in Mexico, I stood on the shores of the beach as the waves pounded against the rocks and sand. The moon peered at me, full in its light. My toes squished in the sand and the rush of wind whipped through my hair. I felt myself melting into the moment. As I closed my eyes, the drawing of my soul toward Heaven was so overwhelmingly deep that I cried, mourning my absence from my Father’s presence. Tears burst forth from within me, and I found myself on my knees weeping and homesick for a place I have yet to see, with love and longing for a Father whom I can feel yet cannot see. All I could say, all I could pray was, “I want to go home.” My heart burst within me with the desire of it. Again, a physical manifestation of my soul.  

So as I watched the crowds of people gather to look upward, I wondered how they might react if it was Jesus who came “in a cloud with power and great glory” rather than a mere eclipse. As for myself, I’d can only imagine how I’d react. But in whatever way, my arms will be open wide, as my longing is finally fulfilled.

 

Tic Tic Tic

It wormed itself through his heart, starting off as a small tic really. Rubbing his chest, he could feel It burrow within him. Small, minute even. Hardly noticeable.

Continuing on, he thought nothing of It. But then It persisted. It wiggled more, slithering itself within the cavernous depths of his soul, growing in strength, making itself at home. As he allowed It sanctuary, It grew, weaving its web within his heart, integrating itself deeply, grasping him tighter.

He could feel It like a leaden weight within his chest now. His heart beat thudded heavier, burdened by the extra load.  His heart and It were now one. While Joy tried to enter, It could not, so was his heart crowded by It. Contentment pounded on the heart’s doors, but was turned away as there was no longer any room for it.

It churned within him, caressing his heart, begging for entrance into his mind. The ponderous weight of It now became a cogency. No longer a menacing tic, It is a force to be reckoned with. Each beat of his heart allowed It to ooze within him, pouring its oppression into his mind, reaching downward to his soul with its fingertips.

It nestled its way throughout his mind, convulsing as his conscience willed it away. So much more difficult than his heart. His mind knows right from wrong, but It is resilient. It can wait. Seizing an opportunity, It bores into his mind, encircling it, submitting his conscience to it. It’s all but encompassing him now.

Its fingertips have caressed his soul, so much more darkened now than before. That minute worming has irrevocably dominated him, now pouring forth with the strength of his heart and mind behind It. It gushes within, cascading into his very being, intertwining itself within his soul so that he no longer exists, but It thrives.

It has conquered him, taken his essence. It pours forth now unbidden in his words, conjured in a darkened mind. It propels action where once it might not have possessed power.

Tic. It was just a Tic. But now, It has become him.

Just Bloom

This is my favorite place. Ever since I can remember, I have escaped to this veranda. It’s nestled off the second floor of our old antebellum house, once regal but now chipped with paint and in need of attention. My haven overlooks a copse of generations old live oak trees smothered in Spanish moss. It also gives the best protection from the berating noises of my father hollering across the house at Mama. Lord knows what the bourbon has lied to him about this time. The magnolias have bloomed fast under my bedroom window just to the left of me, and their scent serves as a reminder. They are beautifully fragile and last only a moment, yet they are strong enough to return each year. Just like me… and Mama.

Dilcey says Daddy had a rough upbringing, and since she’s the oldest person I know, I reckon it to be true. She’s never lied a single day in her life any how. She says Jesus rewards those who are true. I sure hope so. She’s got to be at least sixty so she’s had plenty of time to figure things out. I can’t even remember a time when Dilcey wasn’t here with us in this big old house. Her grandmama was a slave right up the river a long time ago, and Dilcey’s grown roots here. Says she ain’t never leaving. I figure that’s true too.

Dilcey is the only one who knows that this is where I hide. It’s got two old navy damask wingback chairs, faded with time. They face one another like two old people sitting in silence. I usually just plomp down and cross my legs just to feel the coolness of the worn wood planks on my skin. Mama and Daddy haven’t been out here in ages. They stay downstairs where it’s cooler in the summer when the windows are thrown open, and heated up by the fireplaces in the winter. Only I use this place to look out over my little paradise. Or to escape it.

One time, before Dilcey’s knee began to ache too much, she climbed up the stairs after one of Daddy’s bad ones just to bring me an ice cold lemonade.

“Chile,” she said as she persuaded my fine, limp mousey hair into braids, “Sum folks jes got so much hurt inside of dem dat dey don’t kno’ how ta do nuthin’ else but hurt.” She didn’t say anything else to me. Just let me sit there in the shade, sipping my lemonade, trying to fix my helpless hair. I patted her arm to let her know I understood. That’s the way it’s always been with me and Dilcey- not a lot of words, but a whole lot of talking.

Now I sit- much older than I was then, but too young to do much about anything. My hair is now pinned to the top of my head, letting the slight breeze tickle my neck promising of cooler days to come. I close my eyes, trying to drown out the sound of his voice and strain for the song of whippoorwills in the distance. Mama doesn’t make a sound. Just listens. But unlike me, she listens up close. Taking the brunt of his anger, fending off the sharp edges of his words.

Eventually, he will put down his weapons and return to himself, just as he always has. Our little paradise will return, and life will go on. Kind of like those magnolias. When they are here, they are beautiful- pure. But as they die, they wither into a sickening brown, littering the yard below with their ugliness.

 

~~~

 

This is just one of many pieces I have written over the course of the past three weeks during the Oklahoma Writing Project’s Summer Institute.

http://www.owp.ou.edu

All Hail Breaks Loose

Gazing out the window, she asks, “Man! Was the storm really that bad?” Leaves and debris are strewn about the grass. The road is turned into a mud puddle, and the neighbors’ front yard looks like a war zone. Newly blooming flowers are shattered to colorful smithereens.

“You didn’t hear it?” Mike responds from the kitchen. “The hail sounded like cannons being blasted through the roof. It was insane!”

“Nope. I’m a deep sleeper,” she smiles lazily and pours herself a bowl of cereal.

This week’s storm was insane. What started as a lazy lightning show soon became a roaring thunderstorm. But that was nothing compared to the 3 a.m. hail storm that shattered even the noise of thunder. Combined with the cries of my 3-year-old, I felt like World War III had begun. But my 15-year-old slept right on through… never even blinking an eye.

While I’m incredibly jealous that she can just snooze through it all, I am also in awe of it. As I listened to their morning conversation, a profound thought hit me. Shouldn’t we all be able to rest through the storms?

Not the literal hail-smashing, thunder-crashing, torrential downpour type that the atmosphere throws at us- but those in life that weigh down upon us. Some of them are like the other night’s storm. The day was beautiful, but as night moved in, the temperature dropped. Then a beautiful lightning show illuminated the darkening skies. A few fat raindrops watered the earth. Yet just a few hours later, that beauty was an ugly ominous threat.

Others are sudden. No warning. The rain pours in on us with no end in sight. Storm clouds roll in quickly, drenching us, catching us ill-prepared, flooding all around us.

Life is like that. Storms are certain. We find ourselves standing in the rain of life- sometimes it’s just enough to soak us through and other times it is earth shattering. Yet, shouldn’t we rest through them?

My daughter was secure here in her home. There was nothing the storm could do to get to her. She was safe. She is a deep sleeper to be sure. But that’s because life is noisy, and she’s learned to rest through the craziness of it. Even in the noise, she is safe.

Jesus asks us to be just like that- to know that even in the noise of the storm, we are safe.

In the middle of a storm, a literal storm, Jesus slept comfortably on a pillow while his disciples freaked out. So physically close to the savior, they still looked not at Him but at the rain and wind. “Why are you so afraid?” He asked them. And so He asks us too- “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)

In Life’s storms, rest. Rest in his love- his security- His faithfulness.

 

Beauty and the Short Man

Anticipation trickles over the crowd. The little man sits in the tree anxiously awaiting a glimpse at the rumored Messiah. His shins throb from where the bark scraped them clean as he clambered up the sycamore. His excitement shadows the pain.

“There he is!” someone shouts out.

Straining his neck, he finally sees him. The Messiah greets those around him, smiling at their childish joy. Ever so slowly, Jesus makes his way through the crowd. The little man sees him plainly now, just almost below him. Suddenly, Jesus’ gaze locks with his.

“Zacchaeus,” He calls peering up through the branches.

“Uh…. yes, lord?” Sweat begins to bead on Zacchaeus’ forehead. Could this man really be talking to him?

“Come down so that we may speak,” Jesus commands.

Zacchaeus leaps from the lowest branch to stand in front of this man. His heart hammers in his chest.

One of Jesus’ disciples whispers into Jesus’ ear disdain dripping from his words. “This man is a tax collector.”

Jesus’ eyes widen, eyebrows shooting upward. His lips turn downward. 

“Oh, really? Well, I was going to visit you in your house today. However, as you are a, ah hum, tax collector, I think it would tarnish my reputation too much to do so. Perhaps if you cleaned up your act a bit, and really abided by the law, I would associate with you. But as it is, I shall have to move along. Goodness knows that I can’t be seen to too friendly with sinners! Others might think I condone your behaviour! Tata!”

He flips his hand up in finality leaving the stunned short man wiping the dust from his face.

Gotcha, didn’t I? You thought Jesus was going to be so Christlike, and overlook the poor little man’s beastly behavior. Oh, wait. That IS how it happened!

Sadly, however, it is the way the story is very different in America today. Today, Christians are so full of ‘you can’t do that’ that we are entirely undesirable to a world who desires something greater. Our representation of Jesus is SO far off course that He must be slapping his cheeks in shock at our attempts to ‘Be Like Jesus’. He never once said “be like me”; He said “love” and showed us how to do it.

I get that we are supposed to be ‘in the world and not of it’ (not that that phrase is actually IN the Bible). But we can’t even be IN the world if we make Jesus look so undesirable that the world turns away from us. Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. His words- not mine. (John 3:17) It is pretty plainly stated, so how is it that we the Church keep missing it? It’s not our job to condemn people and bring them to judgment. It’s our job to love them and by doing so bring them to repentance.

Recently, Christians have made a big stink about Beauty and the Beast because of an entirely overly exaggerated homosexual agenda. Oh my gosh. Really? Of all of the crap coming out of Hollywood, we are going to hammer another nail into the coffin of Christianity because of one insignificant scene at the end of a children’s classic that you need a microscope to catch? That ONE movie out of thousands (all packed full of sin- drunkenness, immorality, lying, cheating, stealing, etc.) has made negative reverberations heard around the country.  Perhaps if that one scene is worth your fighting for a ‘Christian cause’, you ought to stay away from the theatre, movie stores, or Netflix all together else you might be a bit hypocritical. And if you do choose to fight that battle, please don’t stand on a mountain top- or social media- and bash your Bible against people’s foreheads. They rarely like that very much. 

Sorry Zacchaeus. Can’t come to your house today. Too much sin there.

If you must fight a battle, do it like Jesus. The only time we see Him angry enough to take action was not IN the world, but in the church. Let that sink in for you. Jesus became angry not with sinners, but with those who claimed to be followers of God- those who stood in His father’s house making a mockery of it, going directly against the word of God. He didn’t beat non-believers over the head in an attempt to bring them to him. He did, however, spit some serious scripture at the Church when they were in the wrong.

Sure, take a stand when you must. But don’t be obnoxious about it. Don’t reflect a Jesus who never actually walked the earth. If you want to make a difference in this world, take a stand in LOVE. You don’t have to condone someone’s sins just to love them any more than Jesus did.

Eph 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

And you know what the world needs? Paul tells us in Romans that they need God’s goodness to lead them to repentance. The world doesn’t need our condescension and regulations. They need to know that they are loved despite the fact that they do wrong.

“Ah, yes, Zacchaeus.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)  The REAL end.

 

Unperfect

“Gargh!!!” Her teeth grind against each other clamped against the flow of curse words begging to unleash on the world. Inhaling deeply, she realizes that her fists are balled into tight weapons, knuckles whiter than snow. She exhales slowing, grasping for mental strength, physical strength, spiritual strength. Anything at all to keep her grounded. Flexing her aching fingers, she reaches for perspective. It won’t always be like this. It won’t always be like this. It won’t always be like this.

It’s not a superhero facing her nemesis… it’s just me. It’s what seems like my day-to-day life. Now that I am a domestic engineer, I sometimes face the question, “So what do you do all day?” from unknowing potential victims. They don’t mean it ugly; they’re genuinely curious. But let me tell you, hun. The real question is, “What DON’T I do all day?”

I wear a lot of hats- wife, mother, friend, counselor, human Klenex, teacher, student, Christian, volunteer, plumber, laundress, chef, electrician, mechanic, just to name a few. Today, I drove up to Norman (after slightly losing what bit of sanity is left in my brain) to retrieve the fourth item needed to fix a toilet… only to fix that and have another part break. Buy one part, another breaks. It’s like a bad boyfriend that just keeps coming back. The people at ACE literally know my name, and on what days I actually wear makeup.

I actually made the comment to my husband earlier- “I am done with 2017. Can it be 2018, yet?” Sheesh. It’s only February 6th.

Sorry for the bunny trails- stay with me. I’ll do better.

It took the entire way home from my impromptu escapade to Norman for me to find that bit of sanity I had lost, and return to what I consider my normal. I needed a serious reset button today.

My reset came in the form of an old CD. One of the cool black ones that I burned back in the day and titled “Praise and Worship 2010” using a WhiteOut pen. I was ready for anything. Windows rolled down, wind slapped my hair against my face, carseats rattled in the background, and 2010 blared over my speakers. I sang what words I remembered at the top of my lungs. I was ready for anything. And I got it. I got my reset. I got my wake-up.

Lyrics from my past blasted around me:

This world is always trying to take a piece of me
But You are always there to make me feel complete
If I can keep my eyes on what You have for me
I will face the truth and never look away
You’ll show me the real me

The real me. With all these hats I wear, I forget who that is. The real me. I thought I’d accepted that she’s just hidden for a time and that it won’t always be like this. But the real me escaped as I cried out these words to God today.

The real me- she’s unperfect. I know that there’s no such word, but it’s better suited than imperfect. Imperfect means with flaws. I know I have those. But I am unperfect. The prefix “un” simply means “not”. And I am not perfect. I am a lot of things, but perfect, I am not.

Tears roll down my cheeks and my words begin to mumble beneath the feel of the reset.

It’s You that I search for
It is You I can’t live without
Your hope is what I long for
When nothing’s left in me
It’s You

The real me. The real me is a daughter. I am His daughter. God created me. He is a good father; He loves me though I am unperfect.

He loves me even when that string of curse words unleashes despite my attempts to hold it back. Because He is what I search for; He is what I can’t live without. It’s my Father’s love that keeps my grasp on the reality of this world when nothing is left in me. When I have nothing left to give, he requires nothing of me. He loves me for me because I am his unperfect daughter. His unperfectly, lovable daughter.

Reset. Who am I? Today, I was a lot of things; I wore a lot of hats. But underneath all of them, my identity is true. I am a daughter of the one true king, the God who created this world and all who are in it, the creator of unperfect people like me doing their best to remember that, in spite of all this world has to offer or all it throws my way, I am His.

 

She Stands-Unabridged

She Stands

Snot melts from her left nostril, pooling with the tears streaming down her face. She dare not lick her lip though she instinctively feels the need. Desperation wells up inside of her tossing its ugly head, beating its fists against her rib cage. All the while she stands there immobile. Her body rebels against her screaming mind, “Run away!!” But she cannot go. She stays, looking up into a face she scarcely recognizes as his. Could he even be the same man whom she had loved? His was a face she had sought for love, comfort, direction and peace, now he is barely a shadow of who he once had been.

Guards shout at her to step away. “Move, you whore!” One shoves at her, but she keeps her ground. She pierces him with her eyes so that he dare not try again. She stares into their dirty, haggard faces, seething, trying to tamp down the hatred inside of her for these people. They, who have invaded her homeland, stolen from her and tarnished her soul, now trying to wrench her last moments with him. Her gaze is enough that they step aside avoiding the assault of her stare, leaving her grounded in the mud. She will not move. She will stand.

And stand she does. Tears continue to flow, but she moves not her face from his lest she miss. She watches each agonizing breath as he hangs to what little life there is left in his body. His face once so kind is now distorted and misshapen. She finds him revolting but is unable to look away. She yearns to meet his eyes, but they remain swollen shut. Just one glimpse from him is all she needs for the strength necessary in the days to come. Just one glimpse for her to know it wasn’t all just a terrible nightmare. Just one.

Darkness threatens her view of his face. Rain thickens the air tempting to release its fury over the waning crowd of onlookers. Flashes of lightning dance in the distance just off the mountaintops. It’s as if the sky mirrors her inner turmoil.

She stares unmoving into the pulp of his flesh trying to remember his softness, the softness that always lingered there even in turmoil. She remembers his tears that day. And her anger. He had not come. When her brother lay there dying in her arms, she had sent word to him, begging him to come. But he had not come.

She had sent word again the next day full of dread that her first letter had been lost, stomach turning that he might have simply ignored her. While she waited, helplessly she cared for her dying brother, writhing in his anguish, fighting death to the end. Her beloved brother, whose eyes mirrored her own, struggled to hang on to what little life was left. “Don’t worry, sister,” he had gasped, “He will come.” With that, he had wheezed, convulsed and with a final shutter left her alone in the room. Gritting her teeth, she slammed her fists into the cavernous chest of his emaciated body, beating into him the pulsating beat of her anger, hoping that its heat would make him live again. It had not. She had not cried then, nor did she cry now.

Still standing in the muck as the skies darken above her, the winds threaten to displace her. Her hair whips around her face reminding her of the tears she had finally shed that day.

Four days had passed, and her brother’s body lay cold in the tomb she had purchased for him. She, with her own, hard-earned, dirty money had purchased it. After it was done, she had sat staring into an ash filled hearth with crowds of people around her, crowds who three years ago would have had nothing to do with her. They would not have dared to step foot inside her house. Smiling bitterly, she continued to stare.

A loud cry had interrupted her tumultuous thoughts. “He has come!” Her sister’s flushed, paunchy face was filled with joy as she labored for breath.

Too late, she cursed mentally. “What do I care now?” her eyes bore a hole through the brick, and she fought the emotions warring within her.

Her sister stood beside her, “He is asking for you.”

Her heart flipped and without warning, her legs carried her through the door knowing the way without prompting. Skirts flying all around, her mind whirled with the stares of people nearby blurring them in the dust. Seeing him in the distance, she pulsed forward, skirts flapping around her ankles.

She had fallen in the dirt without grace and clasped his dusty, road beaten sandals. “If you had been here, my brother would NOT have died!” She had stared at his feet, frightened of what he might see in her face. Frightened that he would sense the sheer desperation wrapped in anger at him, all directed at him for not being there when she had needed him. She pinched her eyes shut, willing the tears to stay behind her lids. She would not cry.

A thunder clap above echoes the distant memory of her anger in that past moment. She senses that the heavens feel her pain even now as he had then. “Please, God. Please,” she prays, hoping for a morsel of mercy. The guards continue to push and taunt at the crowds, but not one of the men enters her line of vision. Numbness replaces the hate and anger. She stands.

Her mind carries her back to that moment in the dirt at the tomb of her brother. His sandaled feet clasped in her hands, rage emanated from within her. These same feet that she would later wash with her tears and hair, now gripped beneath her curling fingers squeezing them as to maintain her grip on the world. Shutting her eyes tighter, she had silently willed him to speak. Face bent forward fighting the heat inside her, she felt his calloused hand on the crown of her head, tenderly but firmly. His touch spoke volumes more than his words. The dam had burst. Hot tears sprung forth from her eyes, and she had finally wailed in anguish. The pain of her loss, anger of his absence, despair of hopelessness had sprouted from her shaking her from the inside out. That loss so significant at the time, proves nothing compared to this day. A bitter smile plays across her lips at the irony of it all.

Suddenly, he moves. Just a fragment. But he moved. She watches as he fights the swelling to open his eyes. His kinds eyes are still there, hidden beneath the folds of flesh and suffering. She remembers them on that day. Though buried in bruises and lacerations, her mind reels to a moment when they were once covered in softness. It reminds her that once she had finally met his eyes, despite her anguish, they were also filled with tears. Her mind pulls her back to that moment- the moment she realized he did love her beyond what she may have ever imagined. In the loss of her brother, in her despair, she had found comfort in his eyes. For in his eyes, she had seen the same emotions she felt, though their cause was quite different. As she had looked in his eyes, there was hurt, but not of loss. Her lack of faith had hurt him. Her lack of trust had wounded his soul. Her pain of loss had yielded his infinite compassion. He had wept with her and for her. That was the miracle that day. The miracle of realizing the expanse of his love.

Now those eyes struggle against the weight upon them. Slowly, painfully, she watches as he fights to open them. Rather than finding her face, he seeks the sky. Grimacing as he tilts his head upward, his eyes find the clouds above. She watches, fighting the urge to grasp him, pull him to her, and make the moment go away. Her heart bursts in her chest as she watches helplessly, unable to offer him anything in his moment of suffering. Yet she stands.

The clouds let loose a thunderous roar. Her feet, caked in mud, reverberate beneath her, but she does not move her face away from his to look. The crowds scream as the ground begins to shake, yet she stands. Over the chaos, she can barely hear him.

“My God. My God. Why have you forsaken me?” His voice, strong as it once had been, is now stricken with defeat and agony. His loneliness pierces her heart. His desperate cry slaps her across the face. Yet she remains standing.

She watches as a tear slides down the cavernous wounds in his face, dripping from his chin. His head slowly sinks downward toward his chest. His eyes, for just a moment, meet hers before closing. Before eternity was changed.

 

Musings from the Sky

Looking from the airplane window at the slowly setting sun, my thoughts traveled toward a friend of mine and his latest endeavor. I began writing what I thought would be words of caution to him, but the longer I thought, the more my mind wandered. These are just a few of my musings from the sky.

We are so small, so insignificant. Only in our realization of such can we be truly free. It frees us from what seems so relevant, so significant, so weighty. We realize that these earthly, minute endeavors of ours are all nothingness. None of it will last. All that lasts is what is beyond us. Yet, we are too minuscule to comprehend the reality of life beyond what  our eyes portray to our brains. Our eyes deceive us, telling us that what we see is what there is. They are our enemies as they do not see beyond the insignificant matters. Only our heart can do that. Only our heart joined with the ache within our souls can open our minds to the reality of what life is. Life is not about obtaining things, achieving glory or maintaining health. It is about an eternal endeavor, and endeavor to lead our souls into a paradise where nothing matters beyond the praise of a Heavenly Father… a father whose glory is so great that an eternity of praise is still too incomplete, falling short of the measure of praise his glory truly deserves.

So these “here and now” worries are nothing in light of the future that awaits us. A future where only one action, one desire matters at all. And that is to bring honor to the creator of this world- the creator of this universe and all it holds. He, who in this moment looks upon us and our fears, desiring that we should desire him above all else. Only in that deep-rooted desire of Him will we ever know peace. Only in understanding the insignificance of these earthly worries and fears will we realize the futility of them. Their futility is borne in their temporariness. Knowing that our entire physical life is meant only to bring praise and honor to Him who created us, and anything beyond that is tiresome to our souls.

I Hate You

“Come on, Mom!” I whined, pleading with her to save me.

“No, Tara Anne. You come get this phone right now.” She held her hand over the receiver pushing the cordless toward me.

“But I do NOT want to talk to him,” I whispered hysterically as I unwillingly reached for it. I was already borderline arguing, even though I knew it was to no avail.

She shoved the phone into my outstretched hand. “Don’t be rude!”

Rolling my eyes, I pressed it to my face. “Hello?” I asked like I don’t already know who’s there.

Mom never was one for getting me out of phone conversations I didn’t want to have. It was usually someone that I just didn’t want to talk to. Or didn’t have the time to talk to. Or who just couldn’t take a hint.

Little did I know, that was the good ol’ days. We had a land line. We had to call long-distance. Long distance cost extra money. We had an answering machine that beeped and sometimes deleted important messages on its own. We had to memorize a phone number. We could be gone, and NO one could find us.

Just imagine. You’re at Wal-Mart. Shopping. Roaming the aisles. Perusing at your leisure. No one texts. No one calls. No beeping, jingles, songs, dings, pings, or other annoying sounds. Just shopping. Your whole attention devoted to getting whatever is on your list. Nothing in the world to stop you from conquering that grocery list.

That has not happened to me. I swear, it’s like I walk into Wal-Mart, and the world knows it. Besides knowing half of the people shopping or working there, the other half of my acquaintances are texting me about God-knows-what. And do I have to look at it? No. Not really. But do I HAVE to look at it? Yes. Because someone needs me. Or needs to tell me something. It’s like I’m Pavlov’s dog and that beep indicates that another human being requires my time, and it must be immediately tended to. To wait would be to evoke the anxiety of wondering what is needed of me. I. MUST. ANSWER. NOW. (pant, pant, slobber, slobber)

Forget my cell phone at home…. there is hell to pay. How dare you NOT take it with you? It’s like oxygen. Must. have. cell. phone. to. live.

It’s absolutely ridiculous. This insane reaction to reach for my phone. That phone that is now my camera, map, personal assistant, calendar, email, social network, oh yeah… and occasionally I actually CALL people on it. It’s just there. And when it’s not there, it’s weird. Like when my wedding ring isn’t on my left hand. And it seems like I’m almost as committed to it as I am my husband who put that ring on my hand. (Only, I like him WAY more, and he doesn’t require nearly as much from me as that dang phone.) That phone that I hate.

I realized the depth of my hatred for cell phones after the birth of my second son. There I was- sweaty, shaky, coming out of my blissful epidural stage of comatose wonder, holding this beautiful, dark-headed beauty. I worked hard and long… 13 hours to bring this baby into the world to share him with others. It was finally the climactic point of the show- the grandparents and other family members were there with us. I looked down at his cherub face, and up at all of them. And you know what? EVERY single person had his/her head down looking at their phones. Every one of them. I was holding this beautiful creature, and the audience was distracted. In their defense, they were sending pix and news of his birth, I know. But in my hazy, emotional state, I did not care at that moment. But the time for ‘ooooohing’ and ‘aahhhhhing’ was there- tainted by that dang phone. It would have been a whole different scene without that dang phone. (Plenty of oohs and aaahhs have been made to compensate since then, I guarantee you.)

But I do hate cell phones. I hate text messaging. I hate everything about them. I hate that they have usurped a decent conversation and the art of communication. I hate that my kids will NEVER understand the bliss of being in a car without the distraction of their phone. I hate that because of phones, which once brought people together, now cause distance and coldness.

Don’t even get me started on group messaging…