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…

Mine

Pain grips my heart so tightly my lungs feel its pain. Throbbing, bursting within its cage, it fights to maintain a hold. The pieces of it struggle for freedom, but sheer strength keeps it together. I cannot lose a grip now. Everything is fine. It’s all okay. You’re all right. My mind ticks off bland statements of reassurance. But then, I meet their eyes, their sad, solemn eyes. Any hold I have shatters, and pieces of my heart float down into the pit of my stomach. My stomach knots, trying to brace itself against their intrusion. I beg my legs to stay in place, not to run to each of them, hug them and let them know I care.

They don’t understand. They don’t understand that even though they are not mine, they are mine. They, well most of them, will always hold a special place in my heart. Even when they speak ugly of me, hate me for reasons beyond what I understand, ignore the potential I see in them, or move on as though I was just “some teacher”, they will remain in my heart as mine. Because my students are just that. They are mine. Am I tough on them? Yes. Because I love them enough to push them into better things. Do I hug them? Yes. Because some of them are not hugged often enough. Do I wipe their tears? Listen to their fears? Banter back and forth with them? Yes. Because they are mine- they are MY students, my kids.

So as I watched those boys file past me in the gym today as the funeral ended, my heart was obliterated. Not so much from my pain, but from that which was so evident on their faces. Faces that are those of boys who are not yet men, striving to be strong in this time of loss. Though I am so, so sad to lose Cameron, a boy who, as everyone knows, was sweet, kind, and an all-around great kid, I am mourning for my other kids. Cameron, I know, is hanging out waiting for us to join him later.

But for those kids who remain, my kids who remain, who still have the challenge of loss, my heart is broken and tears fall.

Hearing from the other end of the phone, “Mrs. Dyson, he’s gone” will forever haunt me. That sweet voice, which is normally so bubbly, so full of wonder, calling to tell me the news was full of such pain and overwhelming suffering. Her tears seemed to leak through the phone and fall onto my shoulder. I swear I felt them. But I was too far away to offer that hug. That hug that she wanted, that I so very much needed. Her pain, her loss became mine in that moment. Because she is one of mine.

Now here we are. Here we are telling ourselves, “Cameron wants us to…”, “Cameron would say…”, and “My, look at that storm outside.” Here we are with our wonderful memories, our tears and laughter, our storms and peace. Here we are. Together. Because we are friends. Because we are family. And I grieve with my kids as they grieve together. And we rise together.

And we remember just one of those special kids- one whom I am fortunate enough to call mine.  

She Stands

Snot melted from her left nostril, pooling with the tears streaming down her face. She dare not lick her lip though she instinctively felt the need. Desperation welled up inside of her tossing its ugly head, beating its fists against her rib cage. All the while she stood there immobile. Her body rebelled against her screaming mind, “Run away!!” But she could not go. She stayed. Looking up into a face she scarcely recognized. 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 was barely a shadow of who he once had been.

Guards shouted at her to step away. “Move, you whore!” One shoved at her, but she kept her ground. She pierced him with her eyes so that he dare not try again. She stared into their dirty faces, seething, trying to tamp down the hatred inside of her for these people. They, who had invaded her homeland, stolen from her and tarnished her soul, now trying to wrench her last moments with him. Her gaze was enough that they stepped aside avoiding the assault of her stare, leaving her grounded in the mud. She would not move. She would stand.

And stand she did. Tears continued to flow, but she moved not her face from his lest she miss. She watched each agonizing breath as he hung to what little life there was left in his body. She sought to meet his eyes, but they remained swollen shut. Just one glimpse from him is all she needed for the strength necessary in the days to come. Just one.

Darkness threatened her view of his face. “Please, God. Please.” She prayed, hoping for a morsel of mercy. The guards continued to push and taunt at the crowds, but not one entered her line of vision. Numbness replaced the hate and anger. She stood.

Suddenly, he moved. Just a fragment. But he moved. She watched as he fought the swelling to open his eyes. His eyes, his kind eyes were still there, hidden beneath the folds of flesh and suffering. Rather than finding her face, he sought the sky. Grimacing as he tilted his head upward, his eyes found the clouds above. She watched, fighting the urge to grasp him, pull him to her, and make the moment go away. Her heart burst in her chest as she watched helplessly, unable to offer him anything in his moment of suffering. Yet she stood.

The clouds let loose a thunderous roar. The crowds screamed as the ground began to shake, yet she stood. Over the chaos, she barely heard him.

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

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

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Imagining the scene at the foot of the cross of Jesus is heart wrenching. Place yourself in the shoes of one who loved Jesus, but who, despite the greatest attempts, could not understand him. This love, this devotion must have been unlike any other. It was not romantic, conditional, familial, or earned. Their love for Jesus was innate, instinctive.

This writing is not from the perspective of Mary, Jesus’ mother, nor of Mary Magdalene. It is that of Salome.

Mark 15:40 states: “Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were  Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome.” Who was Salome?

I don’t know. But whoever she was, she was brave enough to stand at the cross when others had deserted Jesus. History tells us little, but this verse tells us much.

According to the historian Josephus, Salome was the name of King Herod’s step-daughter, whose mother wanted the head of John the Baptist. Could they be one in the same? Or is that name just a common one, as ‘Mary’ was? Perhaps this girl, who once danced provocatively in front of a king for gifts became one of the very first Christians. Just my imagination running wild…

A Father’s Love

Oh that I could only erase her pain, he thought as he stood, sand swirling around his feet. The sun beat down upon his dark hair, and he lifted his eyes to the heavens for just a moment. He peered into the faces surrounding him, faces he knew and loved. He found his mother’s face crumpled in the despair of her loss. Those soft honey-colored eyes leaking out her sadness from the depths of her soul. She looked not at him but at the shrouded figure of her husband, his father… well, his earthly father, the man he had called ‘father’. This man who loved him just as he loved his own biological children. Now sleeping.

Memories rushed over him… even his earliest memories as a toddling baby involved the strong hands of his father soothing him, caressing him, teaching him. Those strong hands were the same that taught him all he knew of carpentry. He remembered watching his father’s sinewy arms strip the bark from trees as he molded them strategically into something with purpose. Just as he had done the the trees, this man had molded him into something more with great purpose.

His own tears clung desperately to his dark lashes. He was not saddened by his own loss, as he knew it was only temporary. But his heart broke over his mother’s mourning. This man, her husband, who had every right to toss her aside only 18 years before, was her greatest friend. He alone knew and believed the truth. The time had not yet come for others to know.

Parting his way through the crowd, he made his way to his mother’s side and wound his fingers with hers. Opening her eyes, she peered into the face her son, her own son, so different from that of her other children, and smiled wistfully. Yes, she thought, he understands. We shall meet again soon. Clutching his hand, she bowed her head to thank God.

 

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So I imagine it must have been for Jesus when Joseph parted from this world. Joseph, who by the time Jesus is 13, is no longer mentioned in scripture. We know that Joseph went on to have children of his own as they are given mention and even names, but he would not. Only his selflessness in accepting God’s son is known to us. (But by no greater accomplishment can we be known.) Past the birth of Jesus, little is said about him or known of him. Joseph, who followed God and guided God’s son, must have been one of the greatest men to be disremembered by history.

 

 

Pursuit

I’ve no ideas running, huffing and puffing around in my brain that ought to be shared. There. Truth from the start.  You know that while normally I’d begin this post with a witty statement or descriptive scene, I just don’t feel like it. My heart is heavy.

Not too long ago, I came across a poem I wrote a few years ago. (Rarely do I share my poetry as it is usually written in the spur of the moment or during a breeze of emotion.) I find myself in this place too often; a place where I yearn to dwell in God’s presence and know that He loves me, but find myself too unclean to stay, running from the ugliness that is a human being, and one so unworthy.

However, I remind myself that I am constantly being pursued regardless of what I do.

My Pursuer

The horizon blinks and gazes at me,

Challenging all I hear and all I see.

What does it mean to simply ‘be’?

Can one just exist while living and breathing?

 

You are everywhere and nowhere at once.

Your presence and love my only compass.

Yet it is not within my physical vision,

as if hidden too far beyond my reason.

 

Reason- my utmost enemy.

The complexities of faith astound me.

How can something, someone even be,

if that thing I cannot touch or see?

 

Yet you chase me, and I am captured.

Your love, my soul enrapture.

Reveling, marveling in your infinite grace.

Your arms surround me in strong embrace.

 

My unworthiness brings me shame.

I dare not to utter your precious name.

Yet your fingers gently lift my face,

and I stare into that infinite space.

 

My tears of shame are wiped away,

and in your grace you bid me stay.

The sheer blackness of my being,

Keeps me, blocks me from seeing.

 

Seeing again who I am in you.

You, who alone can see me true.

All those things I desire hidden,

you uncover, and forgive unbidden.

 

To know it is me that you so cherish.

My actions warrant not its merit.

No thing I do nor that I so decline,

would cause you to reject or despise.

 

I am your beloved, and my beloved is mine.

This relationship, your greatest design.

Yet darkness tries again to steal,

all I feel of you that is real.

 

Trapped in a thunderous whirlwind

blinded and caught in my deadly sin.

My own soul wretchedly mocks and taunts,

remembers all the shame I once wrought.

 

Still again you earnestly pursue.

There is nothing I could ever do,

that you would turn your lovely face,

away from all of my disgrace.

 

Reaching for my reluctant hand,

once again you make your willful stand.

Constant reminders of your affections,

Purest, seen most in nature’s reflections.

 

The purest love song have you written,

Dare I think with me you are smitten?

Arms open, tears roll down your face,

longing to wrap me in accepting embrace.

 

Finally, I surrender and succomb,

to your perpetual love you beg I come.

Resting as a child in a mother’s enfolding,

Acceptance of your grace no longer withholding.

 

It is now I find my truest evidence

In your perceptible, tangible presence.

It is here forever I must remain.

To live is Christ, to die is gain.

~Tara Dyson

November 16, 2012

This is How We Became…

She could not believe what she was hearing. The inside of her ears itched like a thousand tiny beetles were burrowing out. Her brain rattled from inside its cage in her head. How in the world could he actually say all of that?  Just as steam was about to flare from her nostrils, she quickly turned and fled the scene of the crime leaving in her wake the shattered pieces of her heart.

No, it’s not a break up scene. It’s not reality tv. It’s just every day life. People say one thing but mean another. People do one thing but with the wrong intentions.  People want but do not give. People just are people.

Except when they aren’t just people. When they are Christian people… well, that’s just a whole new level. In the church, people are expected to have the super human strength to be not-so-human. We are expected to possess a certain infallibility of character. Why? (Because too often we possess a self-righteousness that warrants it- ahem, cough cough.) We also sometimes forget that just because we love Jesus and call ourselves followers of Him doesn’t make us any less human than anyone who doesn’t.

Then there’s the flip side.

How often do we run into people who have given up on the church because they have been (for lack of a better term) screwed over? Often times it’s all because of ONE person. Because of one person, people give up on an entire belief system. How did that one person come to possess such power? Easy. They professed to be a Christian. And with that title,  there is an aura of expected perfection.

But we aren’t. We. Are. Not. Perfect. There is nothing perfect about Christianity except Christ himself. Shoot- if there was, there would be ONE denomination, not 15 million. And you know what? Christians hurt other Christians, which is almost worse than when a non-believer is the injured one. Why? Because we are supposed to be family. We have our Father, and we are brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. And because we are family, we are bound to injure one another. No family is perfect. No church is perfect. No Christian is perfect. No person is perfect.

As a student in Bible college, I was continually hurt by other believers. Either I was not “Christian enough”, or I did not do enough “Christian things” or spend enough time in “Christian activities”. Finally, after a serious rebuff from a leader in my church, I said, “To hell with this all” and left. I had had enough of these Christians.  They made life way too hard for this college student, and I just wanted to follow Jesus and do as He had commanded. I didn’t need all this undue pressure from others to perform. I just wanted to love Jesus! Was it too much to ask?!?!? Fortunately, after a rebellious streak (which only ended up hurting me and not them), I had an epiphany and was okay. I did learn a few valuable lessons from it…

But you know what? Christians hurt other Christians. Because we ARE family. Despite our troubles and difficulties, we ultimately share a love for the same Father. We may not always agree, and our disagreements cause discord which pains our Father, but we are imperfectly striving for the same goal. When I left that church, I left in bitterness and in pain. They had hurt me. But I had allowed them to. I had allowed their expectations of me cloud God’s expectations of me. He has never asked perfection. He asked me to follow Him and love others. It’s simple really. The more you fall in love with Him, the more you become like Him. And in becoming like Him, your love for others grows.

So while we may fuss and fight, please remember… we are not perfect. None of us are. The high expectations of others only immobilizes our ability to do as Christ commanded us. Love one another… in the good, the bad and the ugly times.

 

RIP

Darkness overshadows the onlookers. Thunder rumbles its displeasure in the distance. Wind howls swirling the leaves up from their damp resting places. The smell of decay pervades the nostrils of those few who have come to mourn. Not many are present. Not many others besides the few gathered even feel the loss, can even tell that it has passed into the abyss of time, never to be felt again. The mourners curl their hands around the dirt, grasping clumps just long enough to loose them over the lowered coffin. It’s a beautiful piece of handiwork inscribed with golden lettering. Bits of earth slowly muddle the name of the long lost, whose place in society was once so well regarded, so prevalent. The fading inscription burns itself into the minds of the mourners… “Here lies Honor. Once Beloved, Now Forgotten.”  As the last few letters become obscured by dirt, the ominous clouds wretch open, pouring their tears for the world now without Honor.

I imagine there must have been a day as such… though how long ago I cannot say. Honor. The word itself is obsolete in today’s vocabulary. It has been erased by ignorance, selfishness, and malice.

Just the other day, my son and I were discussing his, ahem, how do I say this? His positively abhorrent behavior toward me (Seriously- I was thinking WHO IS THIS KID?). I reminded him that one of God’s top 10 commandments says, “Honor your father and mother” followed by some more very sage advice. But I could tell I had lost him. He piped up and asked me, “What does honor mean?” An excellent question! From there I was able to explain it to him… both the verb AND the noun. And as I write this, I cannot help but to wonder just how many people in my very limited audience of readers even knows what honor is? How many adults know less than my now enlightened 5-year-old? (FYI: verb- regard in high esteem. noun- high moral standards of behavior. Two of my favorites among other definitions. You’re welcome.)

We were once a society founded upon honor. An insult to honor was an invitation for a fight to the death. To impugn a lady’s honor was degrading to he who even considered it. Men sought to maintain their honor in words and deeds. Wars have been fought over honor, and history pleads for us to remember that honor was once her beloved.

What’s wrong with this world? Yes, we need Jesus. That much is understood, yet incredibly understated. But even if a person chooses to turn his back on Jesus, the least he can offer himself and society is a sense of honor. If a person possesses honor, he or she will ultimately fulfill a positive role within a society. He or she can bring about positive change, be a highly-regarded person of character, and interact with humanity that may be undeserved.

Look at every story in the media today and find what is lacking. In the center of it all, there is an incredible loss of honor leading to an overall loss of integrity and void of consideration for other human beings.

I daresay, ALL of the issues we have in America today ultimately boil down to the fact that we have killed and buried honor without the least bit of sentiment toward its loss. Few of us mourn it; even fewer know that it once existed.

Doubt Isn’t a Bad Thing

The whistled tune of an old sailor’s jig pours forth from his lips. My it’s hot today, he thinks to himself wiping the sweat from his brow. He’s on his way to the temple hoping to hear any news about the Teacher. The rapid slapping of sandals on the dirt behind him makes him turn. He is shocked to see the happy faces of his friends. Their voices roll over one another, and he struggles to make sense of all they shout. “He’s alive!” “He’s back!” “We have seen the Lord!” Pushing their hands away from his garments, he rights himself. Could this be? He’s not seen these men in 4 days’ time. With doubt in his eyes, he firmly refuses their truth. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, I will not believe.” He turns to make his way back to the temple leaving his bewildered friends on the road.

Poor ol’ Thomas. He’s been given a bad rap. History has taken his name, pummeled it, and posted it under the chapter entitled “Shameful Men.” I mean, next to Judas, he’s the “not-so-awesome” disciple of Jesus’ just because he doubted. How dare he. To doubt… to doubt Jesus. *Gasp!* Sinful. Tragic. Unspeakable.  Surely none of us have (dare I say!) doubted God.

Allow me to paint you a picture….

Jesus’ body has been buried. Judas has hanged himself hours before. The Passover was feasted but has a dark cloud upon it. And the 11 disciples who are left now have to figure out what in the world to do! For the past 3 years, these men had followed the Messiah, learned from him, traveled with him, dined with him, faced persecution and near death… and now, now Jesus had left them just as he said he would. What to do now? Well, at least 10 of them hid out together in fear. John 20:19 says that “the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders.”

So imagine, after Jesus’ death, these 10 hide out in a room just waiting to be next. Surely the magistrates are looking for them. They’ve spent these three days waiting in fear. Fear of what? What have they to fear? Death? That’s the only thing I can figure they must be afraid of. Then BAM! Jesus shows up right in the middle of them, doors locked and all. Instead of elation, they’re still afraid. Luke 24 tells that they think he’s a ghost. (Who you gonna call?) Jesus literally has to tell them, “Look at me! Touch me and see that I am real.” I imagine Peter is the first to reach out, just because he has a history of being impetuous. They can, in fact, touch him with their own doubting, fearful fingers. Then it happens. They are freakin’ overjoyed! He’s back! They’re safe! Whew. That was a close call for those guys. They.almost.died.

But there are only 10 who are hiding. Guess who isn’t?

Yep, you guessed it. Thomas. John 20 verse 24 goes on to say that “Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with the disciples.” That’s right. Instead of hiding in that room with the other guys, Thomas goes out and lives his life. Scripture doesn’t say what he was doing exactly, but he certainly wasn’t closeted in behind locked doors waiting to be taken away like the other guys were. You won’t find him biting his fingernails with his knees knocking together like a big ol’ scaredy cat. He has bigger, better things to do. He had seen too much, done too much, and been too many places with the Son of God to stay behind a closed door.

Matter of fact, when the other guys find him and tell him that Jesus is alive, he’s like, “Yeah sure. Let me see that for a fact.” Who can blame him? I mean, Thomas knows that he said he would come back, but just because someone says something doesn’t always make it true. Give Thomas credit. He isn’t gullible.

Then an ENTIRE week later, he’s hanging out with the 10 disciples in the same house, (maybe a happy family reunion now that they other guys feel safe?). The doors are locked- again- and BAM! Just like before, Jesus suddenly appears in their midst. Now, the other 10 have already had this happen to them, so they just sip their sweet tea like it’s nothing new. Thomas, however, is truly in awe.

There is no happy exchange of pleasantries. Jesus turns directly to Thomas and invites him to, “Stop doubting and believe.” (verse 27) Not because Thomas is the ONLY doubter. ALL of them doubted. He was just the last one to get to see Jesus in the flesh because he was the ONLY one not in hiding when Jesus showed up in the first place. He ain’t skeered.

This is Thomas. Thomas, who history has painted as a doubter, is really the toughest disciple of all. Matter of fact, in the good ol’ days when there were 12 disciples, and Lazarus ‘fell asleep’, Jesus wanted to go wake him up. All the other guys were afraid- again. They told Jesus not to return because they had almost been stoned to death last time they were in Judea. But Jesus said, “Let us go.” And you know what? Thomas looked them all square in the eye, those who were afraid of death, and said, “Let us also go that we may die with him.” (John 11:16) Thomas ain’t skeered.

He may prove skeptical, but he’s no chicken. Give ol’ Thomas some credit.

Holding Hands

I watched them through the window. Sitting across from one another silently. No words needed. He savored the sweetness of his chocolate ice cream and waffle cone, pausing occasionally to push his sliding glasses back up the bridge of his nose. She daintily nibbled at her vanilla scoop in a more lady-like cup. They spoke no words. They rarely glanced at each other. Neither of them needed to see or hear one another. They simply enjoyed their ice cream together. Pausing to wipe his mouth on the cheap crumpled napkin, he exchanged it for her wrinkled hand. Softly, he pressed his lips to her gnarled fingers, set them back down on the table, then continued to devour his ice cream. She didn’t blink, didn’t smile. She never even set down her spoon, but continued eating. His kisses are common place. I watched.

What must it be like to grow in life for such long time that words become unnecessary. Words, which once sparked such emotion in an early relationship, finally become useless, replaced by actions instead. Unlike a newly blossoming relationship or a marriage in its early stages, Time brings together two souls not with their words. Words that can cause more damage than any other weapon in one’s arsenal, that have less power to heal than to hurt, become dispensable.

Watching this elderly couple in Braum’s brought back one of the few memories I have of my great grandparents. My MaMa (pronounced in a very slow Texas drawl ‘MawMaw’) was deeply in love with PaPa (PawPaw). Before he died, they spent 69 years of their lives together. Married during the Great Depression, these two teenagers built a life together on a farm in east Texas. God didn’t bless them with biological children. (And their generation did not talk of such things as it is indeed a personal matter.) He did, however, send my Granny to them when she was 15 years old. They raised that sassy red-head like she was their own. They were God-fearing Americans, and they were as solid as an oak tree.

Wearing his faded blue overalls holding a glass gauntlet of tea, PaPa would sit in his favorite chair with the doily on the back of it. “Zettie, how long ’til supper?” he’d call to her. She’d come back with some snappy quip. As she would walk by, he’d reach out with a mischievous glint in his eye and pinch her. Despite her age, she’d whip around with a smile and say, “Oh, Russell!” And for a moment, just a moment, I saw it. I saw the two of them, teenagers crazy in love, flirting with one another. The memory is blurry around the edges of my mind, but I can see it. I can see them.

My memories of them are few. Living so far away, I was not around them as often as I wanted. Being so, my visits with them were even more precious. Each time I was there, MaMa would slip my brother and me some money with a wink and say, “Don’t tell PaPa.” And she would cook. Man, oh man, could MaMa cook. (Perhaps another secret to their happy marriage!) She would cook up a storm, and we would eat. I’d help her and Granny shell peas, we’d shoot BB guns, and fish. Most every time we visited, I remember seeing the love between MaMa and PaPa. I cherish those memories, despite my mind’s alterations and embellishments.

Theirs was a relationship that needed no words. Almost 70 years together was enough time that two become one. A look was enough. A wrinkled kiss on a wrinkled hand. A flirtatious “Oh, Russell!” was more than an “I love you.” A genuine respect for one another borne out of what I can only imagine of Life’s hardships was a foundation for happiness. A stubborn belief in God as the Almighty was a safe-hold against Life’s tumults. Theirs was a relationship that needed no words because what they had was so much more powerful than what any word could offer.