Friday, November 05, 2004

Movin', Groovin'

Well, I finally got around to moving over to Typepad. Maybe there I will have a more professional, writerly, less angst-ridden blog.
Don't hold your breath.
Perhaps I shall keep this spot for the bloodletting and look sane over there. What say you? Anyway, come on over to the new place and say hi.
Rhythms of Grace, the easy listening version?

On Writing

“The aim of an artist is not to solve a problem irrefutably, but to make people love life in all its countless, inexhaustible manifestations. If I were told that I could write a novel whereby I might irrefutably establish what seemed to me the correct point of view on all social problems, I would not even devote two hours to such a novel; but if I were to be told that what I should write would be read in twenty years’ time by those by who are now children and that they would laugh and cry over it, and love life, I would devote all my own life and all my energies to it.”--Leo Tolstoy

This quote echoes how I feel about writing today. Almost. I don't know that I will devote my heart to another book again. It hurts too bad when I have to kill it. :) Have a nice day.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

One Still Sun

On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel:

"O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon." So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel! (Joshua 10:12-14, NIV)

Good news travels fast, especially to those who want least to hear it. Joshua's laps around Jericho that left it's mighty walls in ruin added to his victory over Ai and deceptive allegiance of the Gibeonites passed through the region like fire.

The king of Jerusalem wasn't having it. He decided to send a message to Joshua and to his foolish neighbors the Gibeonites who sought to align themselves with him. He called five other kings to join him before the Israelites got any other big ideas. All five were happy to oblige.

And that news traveled fast too, tumbling out of the mouths of frantic Gibeonites begging Joshua for help. "Don't let us down! Come and save us! All the hill kings are on the way to destroy us"
Now I don't know what Joshua thought then, but I can imagine he thought for a second about how these people had deceived him with their old clothes and moldy bread, proclaiming that they'd come from far off when indeed they lived close by. They'd come to him falsely, but he'd given his word . . . "Don't worry. We're coming."
And he did come. In fact, they marched all night to Gilgal and at the word of the Lord, the men were thrown into confusion and routed before them. (The giant hailstones didn't hurt either). That would have been victory enough for anybody else. I mean, these weren't even his people, right?
Joshua wouldn't be satisfied until he defeated every man he could. If only there was a little more daylight . . . "Lord, hold the sun up there. Don't let it go down until I'm done."
And it didn't go down. For the first time, the sun hung in the sky for a full day so that one man could get the victory he'd promised, the one he'd been promised.
Lord, I need a day like that today. One still sun. Some extra time to slay my dragons, do my work, love folks, love You, love myself. Some of that hail on the enemy wouldn't hurt either. Thank You for being bigger than I can understand. For doing things that have never been done, for being things I never thought You were. Thank You for refusing to be constrained to my set of commentary-coded guidelines, but rather surprising me, shocking me everyday. Thank you, Lord for the many times that You have provided one still sun.
And one still Son too.

In Christ's name,

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

On His Shoulders

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6, NIV)

Back in the day, when we thought love could fill the holes, a friend of mine kept an assortment of men for every occasion. I never could keep them straight. One day, she broke the categories down-- the money man (long in the tooth and in the green), the funny man (never a dull moment but he don't have a dime), the honey man (figure that out on your own) and an assortment of oddballs for emergency needs like car repairs, free dinners, homework help and of course, that who-knows-when-you'll-need-it ride to the airport.

Trying to remember all that, much less try and have relationships with that many people (although I tried my best to keep up) made me dizzy. Still, I agreed with her flawed premise, we are complicated people with a variety of needs. The cool thing? Jesus meets them all.

He's a counselor to listen to my crazies on days like today when the threadbare strap on my purse is holding up better than my brain; He's a mighty God, a warrior willing to fight my battles, a leader with hideouts in his arms and hope in his eyes, a place to crash when things get bad; He's an everlasting Father, one that always sticks around, always worries about sore throats, tummy aches, bad dates and scary stuff. On top of all that, He's a Prince, royalty, the Son of God, willing to not only mingle with such derelicts as myself, but to give his very blood, his very life too. When His reign starts, it's going to be all peace, all the time. I can even plug into that reign now if I get off the throne of my heart and let sit down.

He's the money man, the funny man, the honey man . . .

As Heather Headley would say, He's the Soul Defender of Anything I Fear/The Baby Conceiver/ the Make Me Believer/The Joy Bringer/the Love Giver/He is the Dough Increaser/the Pleasure Releaser/The Hard Knocks Knower with the Scars to Show Ya/The Night School Teacher/the Good Life Preacher/the Caretaker/the Joy Giver/the Kiss Craver . . .


And I'm so glad, 'cause you know what?


Especially not today.

So today I thank God that a child was born. That a son was given. And that after seven PM, P. Diddy, Barbara Bush, Quincy Jones and my Governor Jeb will cease and desist from calling me in five minute intervals. (They will, wont' they?) I'm thankful that there will come a day where there will be no elections, no recounts, no law suits, nothing but ever-increasing peace and a pair of shoulders strong enough to carry it off.

If you need me today, that's where I'll be, perched on His shoulders, naps against His cheek.

See you there,

Monday, November 01, 2004

A Slap in the Face

"So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you."

Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. "Which way did the spirit from the LORD go when he went from me to speak to you?" he asked.

Micaiah replied, "You will find out on the day you go to hide in an inner room."
(1 Kings 22:23-25, NIV)

For three years, there was peace between Aram and Israel. For Ahab, that was three years too long. It was his land and today he decided to retake it. Unfortunately, Jehoshaphat, who had no business being there, happened to be in Samaria for the weekend.

"Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?" Ahab asked, tying the destiny of Judah with that of his own empire. They're all family anyway, right? That whole God of Israel thing was overrated.

Jehoshapat looked up from his buffalo wings. Nodded. "I'm down with you. Just one thing though. We need to seek the Lord on this."

There he goes with that. Better get my boys together. "Sure. Call the prophets."

Four hundred scarred men shuffle in, looking suspiciously similar to the ministers of Baal, but who's counting? God is God, right?

"Go," they shouted in a thundering chorus. "The Lord will give it into the king's hand."

Relieved, Ahab waves them off. It was good to be king, to do God's will without living it. "See?"

Jehoshapat dipped a wing in bleu cheese and made a sour face. "Ain't y'all got no, uh, REAL prophets up in here?"

Here we go.

Maybe J-Dog wasn't as stupid as Ahab thought. Well, no, he was that stupid or he wouldn't be here eating buffalo wings instead of worshipping that God of his. What does he think, he's going to change Israel or something? Make Ahab some kind of Jehovah worshipper like him? Please. It's much to late for that. And for the prophecies of fools. "There's one man who we could ask, but I can't stand him. Always hatin' on me, prophesying something bad. Never has one good word to say. Micaiah is his name, Imlah and nem's son."

Jehoshapat licks his fingers. "Don't trip on the prophet, cuz. Let's hear him."

Sure J wanted to hear him. What did he have to fear, besides maybe Ahab himself? Ahab on the other hand, had everything to lose. Everytime that fool came in the court and spouted his prophecies every word came true, making the king look like a fool. Micaiah was the only one still telling Ahab the truth about himself. Worse, sometimes, when the fool was prophesying, Ahab started seeing things, thinking things, wondering if maybe he was jacked up after all. Maybe Jezebel had it wrong--

One of the officials reached out to steady Ahab's quivering shoulders. "Are all right sir? You seem upset."

If only you knew. "I'm fine. Get the prophet."
Micaiah stood at the back of the line of "prophets", staring at the lush purple robes of Ahab and Jehoshapat dragging the floor. This image was the start of the vision that had troubled his sleep, kept him up all night. His head and heart hurt at the sight of the King of Judah.
He's going to get his behind killed if he doesn't leave this fool alone.
But talking sense into Jehoshapat would wait for another day. Today, it was all about Ahab, the man he'd spent his life trying to turn around. For all the evil in that fool, there were times when they both connected, when Micaiah was sure the king had heard him. He could count on a good beating after those times. As he listened to the prophets ahead of him proclaim peace and victory, he knew tonight would be another of those beatings. Probably worse than any before.
Next in line, Zedekiah, son of Kenaanah, stepped to the shofar wearing a hat of iron horns. He paused long enough to roll his eyes in Micaiah's direction. The weary prophet tried not to laugh. Ram's horns again. Micaiah knew immediately what Zedekiah would say,"You'll gore them until they are destroyed." Ahab would love it. They all would.
As Kenaanah said exactly what Micaiah knew he would, the messenger who'd sent for him whispered a warning. "Now look, all these guys are telling the king good things. You do the same."
"I can only tell the king what the Lord tells me." Micaiah's eyes met with Ahab's.
The king of Israel turned away, then steadied his gaze, focused again on Micaiah. "So should we go up or what?"
Tell him what he wants to hear.
"Go for it." He looked over at Zedekiah. "Gore 'em to death and all that."

Ahab hammered a fist into the ivory table beside him. He cut a look toward Jehoshapat before turning back to the prophet. "How many times do I have to tell you, huh? Enough with the games. Tell me what the Lord has shown you."

Do it.

Micaiah threw back his shoulders, took a few steps toward the throne. "Hear the word of the LORD. I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with the host of heaven surrounding Him. They had a little meeting about you, trying to figure out who would get you to attack Ramoth Gilead and die there . . ."

One of Zedekiah's ram's horns crashed to the floor. Micaiah took another step toward the throne. "There were a lot of suggestions, but finally a spirit agreed to entice you."

"How?" Ahab spoke with a trembling voice. He gripped his throne.

"There is a lying spirit in the mouth of all your prophets. The Lord granted the spirit success. He has decreed disaster for you--"

A slap stung across Micaiah's face. Sour breath hissed across the prophet's burning cheek. "Which way did the spirit from the Lord go when he went from ME to speak to you?" The other horn hit the ground. The clang filled the hall, echoing its emptiness, though many souls filled it.

Micaiah stood still. "On the day you run and hide in your closet, you'll find out where the spirit went.

"Take him!," the king ordered. "Send him back to mayor Amnon and prince Joash. Tell them to put him in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely."

Micaiah turned back to the king as the officials drug him away. "If you ever come back safe, the LORD never spoke through me." He paused, then added the warning ringing in his heart. "Mark my words, all you people!"

Lord, thank you for the Micaiah's in my life. Give me the courage to hear them. Give me the courage to continue speaking, writing and living the visions that You give me, even when they threaten the kingdoms of others. Forgive me for the many times I've slapped Your truth away, out of fear and pride. Don't let me join forces with fools. May my ears not itch for what makes me comfortable, but for what is true.

In Jesus' name,

Friday, October 29, 2004

In the Roar of Waterfalls...

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. (Psalm 42:7, NIV)

Sometimes, when I'm brittle, parched and every next thing looms over my head, threatening to snap me into pieces, I get still, often just for a second. It takes at least that long to tune out my droning thoughts, my thumping heart, my growling stomach, to hear the song of my heart, whispering softly in the rush of many waters.

"Praise the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me . . ." says the whisper as I stop fighting, stop trying to swim and allow myself to be swept upstream, pulled toward the thunder.

Toward the waterfall.

The surge of it deafens me, frightens me, thrills me. The aching emptiness, the two-drops-below-E shallow in me calls to the depths of that pool, so close but so far, just over the edge. The waves wash over my faults, my lies, my fears. I close my eyes and wait for it, this plunge into the pulsing cold, fall into the depths of Jesus . . .


"Hello, this is the RepublicanDemocraticParty with a message from JohnKerry'sUncleBarbaraBushTheThinkTankFromMars reminding you to vote early--"

I hang up the phone, try to dive, swim, anything, but it's too late. My heartbeat is the thunder now. My fears the thunder. Maybe if I can just--

"Mom! The baby bit me!"

"Honey, I'm sure he didn't. He meant to kiss you I'm sure--Baby, don't do that. Come here--"


As said butt dives in my direction, I prepare for the collision, balance the baby on my other hip, still trying to reach for my Bible. The phone rings again. I freeze. It's probably the Bush twins calling to see how my day is going. Or Al Sharpton calling with a friendly voting reminder. Still, it could be my editor . . .

"MOM! It's the dentist! Says we're supposed to be there now."

I let the butt-biter slide to the floor and check my trusty notebook. "Nope. That's tomorrow. The 27th."

Said kid laughs. "Today IS the 27th."

Blank stare. "Tell her we're on our way."

Before heading for the shower, my daughter conveys the message, hangs up the phone and shakes her head with that "and these are the people who run the world" look. For once, I'm thinking maybe she's onto something.

But then, as a lego bangs my temple, I hear it, coming from the bathroom, muted, but just enough--the sound of waves and breakers, the roar of waterfalls, the voice of God. I pause, whispering my river words.

"Praise the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me . . ."

It's just a moment, but enough. There'll be prayers in the car, I can take the Bible to the dentist--and I should really try and work on those edits too. How long will we be there?

The freakout child realizes the situation and comes wailing down the hall. "We're supposed to be at dentist? NOW? I mean how are we going to do that? We've got ballet and she's got volleyball and didn't daddy say to--"

"Find your buddy and get in the car." I have to stop her before she hyperventilates. I have no idea where she gets it from. Yeah right.

With that, I stab my toes into my shoes, sidestep Mount Fold-Me, and make up a song about fractions to sing in the car. A song about taking an empty, dirty glass and filling it a little at a time.

That friends, is pretty much how my life goes . . . on a good day. :) Still, one of my favorite authors, Lisa Samson, seems to think that some of the things I write here are deep? (the other three people who read this thing know better). LOL

I am neither deep nor wide (spiritually speaking, the hips? another matter). I'm just a manic mama trying to reach for her dreams while holding on to her famiily, her faith and her friendships. A shallow puddle on the way to the waterfall.

So come often and splash around on your way to the River of Life. Jesus will clean everything away, even the muddy remnants of me from between your toes.


... and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory. (Ezekiel 43:2, NIV)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Ignore this...

People who live in houses never get it, but street people know: Fall begins on the fifteenth of August, at the exact moment when summer's at its peak. It happens like breath, the exhale being the seed of the inhale. There's the first yellow leaf. A tiredness comes over the green. The smell of snow rolls down from the mountain, and your bones remember the cold that's coming.
--Janis Hollowell, THE ANNUNCIATION OF FRANCESCA DUNN, William Morrow

Isn't that an amazing paragraph? I'd forgotten that I read it, but in gathering my notes from this summer when I was preparing to speak at ACRW, I found this paragraph. I think these sentences provokedthe forest you've been walking through if you've been here lately. Isn't amazing how words can sprout in the darkness of our minds, dropping roots into our souls? Wow. God is so wonderful like that.

Still though, ignore this post. LOL It's writing related. :) Several people asked for the notes of a talk I did and I promised to put them on my web site. Since my Contribute software is acting whack and I can't update my website, I'm going to post the notes from my ACRW late night conference chat here. I said a lot more than this that I can't remember and it wasn't taped, so if you were there and can think of something important that isn't on this skeleton outline, post it in the comments. :) There were also a few timed writings based on selections I read aloud. I may post them here also so you can try it if you want to. If anybody has what they wrote and want to share it, feel free to post it in the comments or send it to me and I'll post it. Oh yeah and there were bookmarks, magnets and prizes. All scriptures mentioned were read aloud by members of the group. We also had a timekeeper who "chimed" every eight minutes. If you were there and want to share what prize you got, do that too. Speaking of which I think I owe somebody one. Hmm... :) Forgive any formatting problems.


Finish the Book: 8 Minutes at a Time

I. Setting the Alarm-2 Corinthians 8:10,11
Completion, not perfection. The difference between an author and a writer? A book.
A. Get a Grip
B. Get a Goal
C. Go for it!

"This above all - ask yourself in the stillest hour of the night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple 'I must,' then build your life according to this necessity..."
--Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke

II. Minute One-READ IT!

A. The Word-Hebrews 4:12, Psalm 138:2
1. Daily devotional lists
B. Classics-get a high school reading list
C. Books inside your genre
D. Books outside your genre
E. Your prayer journal-remember God’s faithfulness

"The writer studies literature, not the world. He lives in the world; he cannot miss it. If he has ever bought a hamburger, or taken a commercial airplane flight, he spares his readers a report of his experience. He is careful of what he reads, for that is what he will write. He is careful of what he learns, because that is what he will know."—Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Writing exercise: Oral excerpt and followed by eight minute freewrite

I'm no newcomer to strangeness. I've had it all my life. It's my curse and my blessing that I can smell things other people can't. Ican pick up the rotten sweetness of infection from across the street. Anger coming off a person is an acrid, mustardy thing, not unlike the odor of ants, and lying has a cloying, soapy smell that makes my mouth pleat. In the past, when social workers and do-gooders discovered my gift, they sent me to shrinks who gave me the latest antipsychotic. I tried to take them, but the drugs always made me go dead inside. Each time I ended up deciding to carry on intact, smells and all, rather than live in that pharmaceutical twilight.
–Janis Hollowell, THE ANNUNCIATION OF FRANCESCA DUNN, William Morrow

III. Minute Two-WRITE IT!- Psalm 45:1

A. Copy God’s Word
B. Draw a map of your setting
C. Journal from one character’s point of view
D. Keep a notebook handy
E. Just write and see what happens!
F. Outline the books on your keeper shelf
G. Sing your scales to find your voice. Write something!
H. Scan your outbox for gems you missed

“We learn to do something by doing it. There is no other way.”—John Holt

IV. Minute Three-SAY IT!- Psalm 107:2
A. Speak God’s promises/David preached to himself
B. Read previous work aloud
C. Read dialogue aloud into the mirror
D. Sing a psalm
E. Find voice recognition software and listen to your story.
F. Books/Bible on tape or CD
G. Recite poetry
H. Practice for public readings
I. Practice pitches

"One of the strongest characteristics of genius is the power of lighting one’s own fire.”
—John W. Foster, clergyman (1770-1843)

Oral readings

Depressed? Stuck? Read this daily.

A Godly Writer’s Confession

I am anointed, beautiful, confident, disciplined, energetic, fearless, generous, highly-favored, intelligent, joyful, kind, loving, master of my emotions, noble, organized, patient, queenly radiant, submissive, talented, unique, virtuous, whole, x-traordinary, youthful and zealous

Yolanda Callegari Brooks Copyright 2003. Used with permission.

Or better yet, make up your own (the appendices in Write His Answer are great too)!

"A writer is like a bag lady going through life with a sack and a pointed stick collecting stuff."--Tony Hillerman

V. Minute Four-PRAY IT!-1 Thess. 5:17, Eph. 6:18
A. Prayer journal
B. Pray for your readers, editors, agents, fellow writers and favorite writers
C. Record God’s answers
D. He’s the Author and Finisher. Ask for help!
E. Get others to pray for you
F. Only one thing is needful. Choose the greater part. Sit at His feet and let Him tell you the story.

If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
-- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

VI. Minute Five-MOVE IT!-Acts 17:28
A. An active mind needs oxygen
B. Good posture and reflexes
C. Body moves, brain births
D. Not about losing weight, about gaining ideas
E. Break a sweat in 8 minutes
F. Move your mind with music
G. One song is usually around four minutes
H. Let the music play and the words pour out!

Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen. Even so does inactivity sap the vigor of the mind. -Leonardo da Vinci

VII. Minute Six-PROVE IT!-Hebrews 12:2
A. Share the work with somebody
B. Critique group/ partner?
C. Editor/agent
D. Revisit the goal and make it happen!
E. Don’t bluff!
F. Check your goal. Is it SMART?
1. Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Tangible.
2. finish draft1 by next conference or revise mss by January vs "write a book".

“Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doint it.”—Joel Barker

Writing exercise #2-oral excerpt, eight minute writing
"You smell that?" she said excitedly to the back of the cabdriver's head.

"I don't smell nothzing, my cab clean, lady."

She yelled at him to stop then and she rarely yelled at people like cabdrivers, elevator operators, the ones who vacuumed the carpet at the special-needs school where she was principal. Figured she'd be working thus if Rowe's large hands hadn't rushed in and broken her fall when she'd tumbled from her heightened station in life. Told the cabdriver to stop right now, let her out, she needed to get out.

"You sure, lady? Here? That lady who tip me said I wait till you in your door."

She leaned into the cab window, whispered into the driver's face, "My aunt says if you smell butter on a foggy night you're getting ready to fall in love." She made her eyes go big, lowered her voice even more the way her aunt would do. "And if you're walking alone when you smell it-"

"Yeah? Yeah? What happen?"

Verdi didn't know the rest, when her aunt got to this part her face would glaze over in an oily sheen, she'd start fanning herself and shaking her head. Lord have mercy is all her aunt could say after that. "It's just better that's all," she said to the cabdriver as she turned and started walking toward home.

Diane McKinney Whetstone, BLUES DANCING, HarperCollins

VIII.Minute Seven-REST IT!-Genesis 2:3
A. Keep a sabbath heart
B. Don’t isolate yourself/schedule fun
C. Take a break after meeting goals,not a vacation
D. Maintain relationships while writing, reward friends and family with an “end of the book” event

“Nothing is as real as a dream. The world can change around you, but your dream will not. Responsibilities need not erase it. Duties need not obscure it. Because the dream is within you, no one can take it away.”—unknown

IX. Minute Eight-BEST IT!-I Cor. 15:58
A. You guessed it! Start all over again.
B. Assess what worked and what didn’t
C. Identify time distractors
1. no email, phone or tv until after you write? Address your weaknesses
D. Find YOUR rhythm!
E. Thank God for what He’s done
F. Messed up? Didn’t quite make it? Start over!

“You can make all the plans for the fight you want, but when the lights come up you’re left to your reflexes. If you cheated during the dark workouts of the morning, you’ll be found out under the bright lights.”—Joe Frazier

Question: Who would you rather listen to, a musical prodigy who practices when it rains or an average artist who practices daily and moves from last chair to first? Think about it. You’re asking both editors and readers to pay hard earned money for your books.

Find your rhythm and play it to THE END.

Other stuff I remember saying—
Get your family on board, pray with them about where your writing should go

figure out what motivates your family, what irritates them

Every time I get a check we all go to WalMart and everybody gets one thing, I pay my older kids for extra duties during deadlines

get DESPERATE!, let them see that you want this

ask for a book for Christmas, YOUR BOOK!

where will you be at next year’s conference?

don’t blame the editors or trends, BE a trend!

Come back next year with a full heart and open hands

come with the work done and pull somebody up with you

most people wrote two pages in 8 minutes tonight, Francine said she writes 4 pages; you can’t write like her, but you CAN write!

how long do you spend on email? Open one and write it to yourself about your BOOK

Be humble and hungry, this ain’t for the faint of heart…

there is only one YOU and somebody needs ya, get at it

Jesus will help us. He's good like that. :)

It's only eight minutes.
Don't miss it.
Not even for the world.

Off to take my own advice...

Friday, October 15, 2004

Rain from Heaven

Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds of the air touch them by day or the wild animals by night.
When David was told what Aiah's daughter Rizpah, Saul's concubine, had done, he went and took the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh Gilead. (They had taken them secretly from the public square at Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hung them after they struck Saul down on Gilboa.) David brought the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from there, and the bones of those who had been killed and exposed were gathered up.
They buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the tomb of Saul's father Kish, at Zela in Benjamin, and did everything the king commanded. After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land. (2 Samuel 21:10-14, NIV)
I was talking to a friend recently and she shared a message that her sister-in-law had preached on the scriptures above. (She comes from a family of preaching folk--daddy, brother, sisters, the in laws--these people ain't no joke. LOL) My friend said that she was ready for her issues to get a proper burial, that she'd been fighting the birds back for many months and it was time.
I agree.
Rizpah had a hard way to go. As the concubine of an ill-tempered, often absent and perhaps even demon-afflicted King Saul, all she had was her sons and her place in the palace. Now Saul was dead, her sons gone and her already second-place womanhood defiled by Abner, who'd gone over to David and left her too. All she had in the world were the bloody, exposed corpses at her feet.
And the vultures were circling.
She didn't have any spears, any strength, any help. All she had was her grief, her need. And she used it. Shuffling, shouting, waving those arms who carried the burden of a too proud king, shaking those hips that had once housed his future. From October to April, she beat back the birds, with no thought to her life, no regard for the cold, the hunger. . .
She'd taken a lot of things in her day, but this was too much. Until her last breath was spent, her arms no longer able to wave, her voice not able to scream, her eagle eyes couldn't see, only then would her spirit give in to her body's weakness. Through it all, she believed in God, hoped that somebody, somehow would help. Somebody with some land and a shovel and a strong back would come and put her corpses to rest.
I'm feeling Rizpah today. I've been beating back birds from April to October. She waited for the rain of spring, water from heaven. This year's spring rain brought me tears. Now it's harvest time, my usual period of mourning, hurting. I'm too tired to hurt. My voice to hoarse to cry. My shoes worn through from stomping the earth beneath me, from trying to leap to the heaven above me.
It's harvest time, Lord but I'm going to pretend it's a different day. A day of latter rain. I'm going to look past the black sky into the far corner to that small cloud, the breezy one that's been floating toward me lately. The cloud that Elijah saw after the drought.
The cloud shaped like a man's hand.
So I offer myself to you, Jesus. Me and all my mess, all my failure, all my faithlessness and disbelief. All my issues with God and men. Come to me, my King. Come to me and move my bones, still my heart. Come and give my rottenness a proper burial. Rouse my love for You, my Darling. You have stood by and held my hand, loving me through my brokenness. You did not chide me or speak. Thank you for waiting, for sprinkling me with Your Word, with Yourself. May Your Spirit move through this place like a flood.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

A Tree's Flourish

All the trees of the field will know that I the LORD bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.
" 'I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it.' " (Ezekiel 17:24, NIV)

I'm on the run today, but can't seem to get away from thinking about leaves and trees. I got some beautiful tree quotes today from Bruderhof and I had to share a few of them quickly while everyone is occupied (or so I hope...)
I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it; and, though fast rooted, they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space—heaven knows how fast and far! - John Muir (Isn't that amazing? I had to read it twice.)

What is sour in the house a bracing walk in the woods makes sweet. - Henry David Thoreau (Ain't it the truth? There's a book in that.)

Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky. We fell them and turn them into newspapers that we may record our emptiness. - Kahlil Gibran (Wow. What else can I say?)
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:3, NIV) (I threw this one in for good measure)

This field trip to the forest is now complete. It'll have to be. I hear an eerie silence in the other room that can only mean destruction. (Aren't I optimistic?) Anyhoo, if anybody knows what you have to do to prepare the ground for a Christmas tree you can plant in your yard after Christmas let me know. Or I can not be a slug and google it myself... LOL
Sorry for the weird format. Blogspot is playing tricks on me again. I know, I know. Typepad. One thing at a time. I haven't updated my website since June. :X Wrote a book and a proposal since then though. You can't have it all. Or in my case, you can't have much of it. Thank God that He is exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think clause.
Have a green and glorious day . . . even if you're in the desert.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Less Like Scars

Less Like Scars by Sara Groves
copyright 2004 Mantle Music and Northern Heart Media
It's been a hard year/But I'm climbing out of the rubble/ These lessons are hard/ Healing changes are subtle
But every day it's Less like tearing, more like building /Less like captive, more like willing/ Less like breakdown, more like surrender/ Less like haunting, more like remember
And I feel you here/And you're picking up the pieces /Forever faithful/It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation /But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt/ Look less like scars and more like Character
Less like a prison, more like my room /It's less like a casket, more like a womb /Less like dying, more like transcending /Less like fear, less like an ending
And I feel you here /And you're picking up the pieces /Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation /But you are able /And in your hands the pain and hurt/ Look less like scars
Just a little while ago /I couldn't feel the power or the hope/ I couldn't cope, I couldn't feel a thing /Just a little while back I was desperate, broken, laid out, hoping
You would come /And I need you /And I want you here /And I feel you And I know you're here /And you're picking up the pieces /Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad, bad situation /But you are able /And in your hands /the pain and hurt /Look less like scars (x3) /And more like Character
I heard this song on the radio today and cried like a baby. Don't know why... but it was cleansing. After "It's been a hard year," I just broke down.
It has been a hard year. Beautifully difficult. It started out with joy, selling books, signing contracts and then . . . well, let's just say things got tight like a bad suit. But at the sound of those lyrics, I admitted to God and myself that some of it was just pain rotten, but looking less scars and more like a bracelet, a necklace, a jagged elegant thing.
Off to CBD to order the CD, but I had to share. Sara is really becoming one of my faves in a Maggie Becker sort of way. And to think that two days ago, I was on a total Donnie McClurkin binge. What can I say? Praise opens me, beckons for me to open my reluctant rose of a heart. I want to write the way they sing. One day.
I am so strange...and wonderful. Just like you.
May your day, your week, be more like dancing barefooted in an open field of joy, dancing to the rhythms of grace.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Mumble Jumble

Driven into the ground, you'll speak, you'll mumble words from the dirt--Your voice from the ground, like the muttering of a ghost. Your speech will whisper from the dust.(Isaiah 29:4, MSG)
Okay, I'm just posting today without even the sixty seconds of my usual consideration. My brain is too fried by proposals and revisions to make much sense anyway. I'm feeling like a slug with a big fat "F" on my forehead (for failure in case you're wondering. I seem to think that's obvious. LOL) Isn't it funny how the enemy never comes with anything new (well, sometimes). But for the most part with me it's the same questions--Has God truly said? Are you really a mother, wife, writer, friend? You sure don't look like one.
In truth, I don't. I can't even find stuff in my own town. My husband had to take on of the kids down to Gainesville for a dental appointment and I had to get us to a volleyball scrimmage. (I hear you laughing already) I COULDN'T FIND IT!
In the dark everything looks different and we were about to run out of gas and somebody had to pee and an amazing idea came to me at the red light and...well we went to Dairy Queen instead. And my daughter apologized to ME because I missed Women's Bible Study to take her to the game.
Kids are amazing like that, overlooking the slugdom of their mothers.I felt good for a second, until my husband called from the school wondering where we were. He'd timed his trip exactly to make it back for the game. He's good that way. Normal. :) I, on the other hand, am basically writing-only material. I guess that's a good thing. It sorta narrows down the options.
Anyhoo, pray for me if you think of it. I just realized that Christmas is bearing down on me along with a revisions, deadlines, church stuff and all that. Every year I say I'm going to have some mythical Martha Stewart holiday where we do the entire advent calendar, put the tree up before Christmas Eve (a family tradition from my side that drives others crazy) and send ALL the Christmas cards before New Year's. 2006 is looking like a good year for it to happen...
Oh yeah, I read a really good book this weekend. I devoured it in a few hours (at red lights even. That was a first, and not a very safe one). It's called Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. It's a young adult novel that I've been meaning to read for a while. I see why it's won like every award known to man. Reminded me in some ways of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. YA is such a treat, especially when you're a grownup that can't find a junior high gym.
This episode of MumbleJumble has now come to an end. Unfortunately, if you tune in next week, you'll probably catch another episode.
Can a poem redeem this post? I so doubt it, but here goes:
This is a whisper/sister/mumble
As I follow/hollow/crumble
Close my lies/eyes/tumble
Ears to hear/fear/rumble
YOU kiss a sister/whisper/humble
"Forget your guilty/wilty/jumble
Lean on Me and won't/don't/stumble
I specialize in whisper/sister/mumble"

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Ever Green

He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:8, NIV)

Turn Me to My Yellow Leaves
By William Stanley Braithwaite
TURN me to my yellow leaves,

I am better satisfied;

There is something in me grieves—

That was never born, and died.

Let me be a scarlet flame
On a windy autumn morn,

I who never had a name,

Nor from breathing image born.

From the margin let me fall

Where the farthest stars sink down,
And the void consumes me,—all

In nothingness to drown.

Let me dream my dream entire,

Withered as an autumn leaf—

Let me have my vain desire,
Vain—as it is brief.
--The Book of American Negro Poetry. 1922.
How I long to be evergreen, staunch and determined, instead of curling in on myself, a yellowed, crunchy leaf. Though I haven't felt the wind of an Ohio fall in so many years, the cool blows through me still. It seems all my seeds, my never born, or born and gone, came to me in autumn, drew my knees up in the wake of winter. This year is no different. In spite of my favorite lipstick and and the sweet drape of my best scarf, I feel the chill, the crunchy biting soul-cold, threatening my bonefire. If not for His hands cupped 'round my small flame, for His lush grace like a carpet between my feet, I would blow away, barren of word and prayer.
Thank God He is ever green.
I am no such thing and once was so much worse. Saturday was the Day of Atonmenent. I didn't realize it until evening that I'd missed the whole Rosh Hoshannah hush. I'm not Jewish (just grafted in), but I seem to ebb and flow in tune with the their calendar. Especially in Fall, when yesterdays rush up around my eyes, filling my head with wide-eyed women twisting their wedding rings, and girls in tennis bracelets holding hands with their laughing fathers. And me, alone. Always alone. They'd drop me off, pick me up, but never stay. Not my friends, not my boyfriends, not my mother. Though it wasn't really "wrong", nobody wanted to bloody their hands or watch me cry, see me make for the door and come back, beg God for another chance even though there weren't any more. Watched me glisten auburn, copper, gold...and then curl up dried. Empty.
Next month, my Jewell, the one who started it all will be 20. I pray for her always, hope she's wise and good, godly and strong. Pray that if I met her this side of heaven she won't be ashamed. And the others? I see them in my dreams, long and luscious with Black-eyed Susan eyes. They smile and wave, knowing that I can take that now, that inspite of my thin-veined heart and yellowed pain, I can wave back. Smile.
I can't do it really, but He can. For He is always strong.
Ever green.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The Word of our Testimony

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (Revelation 12:11, NIV)
We're on a movie kick around here. For like three years, I didn't watch any. My head was so far in a book it was all I could do to keep the house going. Now I seem to be back with the world again (as far back as I can get) and catching up a bit. In the past week, we say Mean Girls (wowza, do girls talk like that in high school? Guess so. I did. Scary.), 50 First Dates (Okay perhaps Adam Sandler will not die from stupidity. Rob Shneider on the other a fool in need of serious counseling. The ending? Wonderful.). And then, last night, I finally caught Castaway.
I know what you're thinking, "Huh? Uh, Mary that is so old and oddball." True enough, but I try to catch most things with Tom Hanks or Robin Williams. They take on diverse projects and make me think about story in weird ways.
This time was no exception. After surviving what my husband swears were hours of Hanks on the beach with his bloody volleyball named Wilson (I laughed. He rolled his eyes. Yet Adam Sandler cracks him up. Figures) I got to the end of the movie, the brink of the whole thing...and here comes a commercial.
My daughter got comfortable, like we do for these types of endings. Not quite the cry posture, but at least the grab your throat and sigh pose.
The screen flashed. We pulled closer and...
The credits rolled. My husband strolled by with a buffalo wing, laughing his way back to the football game I'd missed to see this.
Nobody turned off the TV. We just stared. At each other. At the ceiling. I thought,"Please God, don't ever let me do this to somebody. Ever!" LOL
When I finally pulled myself together, my daughter exploded. "What was in the box? What do the wings mean? How'd she get that cute shirt living out in the boonies? What's the dog's name?"
"Yeah! And what was up with the husband sleeping through the taxi visit? And those maps on the table?"
I nodded, but that wasn't it. I realized that I live certain actors and certain producers because whether they know it or not they give me a Jesus moment, a slice of raw truth, pure hope. Not sappy necessarily, but something that says to me, "Yes, He was in it all along." This time, I only got to sniff it, sight it for off like a cloud the size of man's hand.
But I can't be real mad at that writer. I do it too, stop short of the ending. My ending. We all do. I met so many writers this past weekend who want to write like anybody but themselves. Writers especially are weird this way. We all feel compelled to tell others what they should write, what they should feel, even when we don't what to do with our own stuff. People did that to me for years, still do it.
Why? Because the church and some of the industry is doing it to them. People want the story, but not the whole soul-shaking, raw, bleeding thing. Do we want to stay safe in our churches in some make believe Christian world or overcome the enemy? I wonder. The tools that take him down are the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony, the fingerprint of our pain, the tapestry of our hope.
So wherever you are today, being God's living book, his moving story, don't tape shut the good parts or flip past the bad ones. Tell people what's in the box, who is in it--Jesus. He's the wings, the mystery, the whole thing. And if you're a writer, don't try and be anybody else. God already has one of them. There is only one strange and wonderful you. :)
Find your rhythm and play it to THE END.
Peace : Mary

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Wings of Morning

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me. (Pslam 139: 9, 19, NKJV)
I love this verse. And after returning from a writer's conference in Denver last week, I really appreciated it more. I flew out the morning after hurricane Ivan blew in west of us. All the flights before and after me were cancelled. Every hub but Delta was dark.
"Is the flight still on time?"
A kind man grabbed my bag and sort of waved me along. "Yep. You coming?"
Sure. Of course. I mean it's not we were flying into the storm, right? We were going to Atlanta. And besides, like my husband so stoically informed me, they have to fly over the hurricanes to take those cool "eye of the storm" photos. So yeah, I'm coming, Queen of the Carry-On bag, hoping that me and the check-in stuff all arrives at the same place.
On the plane, the biggest, brightest looking young man sat next to me, all full of smiles and freckles. He looked like an ad for Young Life or the Future Christian Leaders of America if there is such a thing. He tucked all six-feet something of himself into the seat, looking confident and secure. I smiled, but trembled a little, realizing that I was actually going to the conference and what that might mean. For the past few days, I'd only concentrated on whether or not the planes were flying and if I still had a seat. Now, none of it seemed too important and there was still my hair to untwist and my afro to create so I did the noble thing and went to sleep...
I guess that was a good idea, that nap, but when I woke up to the plane being dribbled through the sky like basketball, sleep was no longer an option. Mr. Future President looked smaller all of the sudden as he leaned toward me.
"You're praying, right?"
I nodded, wondering how he knew. (Perhaps if I was sitting next to a big, black woman with a Bible the size of Texas, I'd be hoping she was praying too) As we skittered around the sky like a flea instead of a jumbo jet, I sat in awe of God's power, that His breath alone could sweep the heavens clean. There was a tornado below us, they said and a hurricane under that. Everyone looked down, but no one dared speak.
Everyone but me.
I looked up, out. We passed a cloud that looked like a giant hand with fingers curled around the plane's wings. We bounced again, harder this time. I closed my eyes, knowing that regardless, He was there. Here.
As we landed, I woke up, just in time for my next flight. We all shuffled off, thanking the pilot and crew for their diligent flying. Some paused in the walkway to take a deep breath, others ran to their loved ones and clung tight. I moved slow at first and then picked up speed as I felt a shout forming in my belly, a praise shooting up my throat. He'd been with me again, even on the wings of the morning.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Such a Violent Storm

Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. (Jonah 1:4, NIV)
There's a storm coming.
In me.
Unlike the hurricane raging this way, I didn't have any warning. None at least that I wanted to admit. None I could deny. The first wind I heard, like a train soon to derail was tonight while watching John Q.
"I'll be with you always, Son," Denzel said, then fisted the boy's chest. "Right here."In that moment, in that second, I saw--felt--a fresh image of Jesus. Of sacrifice. Of love. Something else stabbed my mind. A memory. The intangible smell, the horrid funk of fear. Of death.
There it was again. That squeezing. I closed my eyes. It wasn't like I could see my toes anyway. My belly had devoured them months ago. Even with the bedrest, the stillness, the praying, it kept coming, that squeezing. My husband's breath fell in heavy layers on my necks, sheets of overtime breath. His deepest sleep in a long time, I knew. A sweaty little boy was beside him, finally sleeping after being scared out of bed by what he'd felt. That one is sensitive. Even more than me. He'd smelled something, he said. Now, I smelled it too.
In the spirit.
Something in the air. Something foul.
They're going to die, the thing whispered, curving around me. Around them. You cannot have them.
It had scared me the first time. For all my charasmatic memories, I'd always been brighter than darkness. My Bible verses had always swept such scents, such hauntings away. But this time, these babies, two instead of one--sons of thunder, men of God--this time was different. I'd long since stopped talking to the pitch, rebuking, wailing. Save that for televangelists. It's exhausting. I turned to Him instead. I am afraid. Please. Help me.
Trust me.
The pressure flared to pain. I rocked slowly, flipping onto my side. My husband's breath paused, then whistled low. I could wake him, get someone from church over to watch the kids...but he'd miss work. Miss money. I had to be strong. Fight.
"You okay?"
It's hurting now. Bad. "No."
We stare at each other then, in the darkness. Even in the dark, I can see his face tighten, his forehead pinch. It's been this way other times. They'll give me a shot. It'll take enough of the night to leave him asleep at the wheel tomorrow. He'll come, I know that, but he doesn't have to. Not tonight. I shuffle up, grab the keys.
"I'll call you when I get there."
When I called, it wasn't the usual news. The shot didn't work. Nothing did. The funk of fear grew, multiplied. The thing mocked me behind the doctor's eyes. "You'll have to stay here until you deliver."
I stare at him, counting the days, weeks, months. Impossible. "I can't stay. I have other children. My husband he has to work."He rolls his eyes, brown like mine. I know what he is thinking, but he's wrong. We have been working, always. I kept three jobs before and even now still tutor on the side, but he has been working, doing things no one should do. Things his mind is too sharp for. But they don't want his mind. They want his back. This man though, who kills babies as well as saves them, would know nothing about that. About us. We are the faceless poor. The nameless nothing.
A nurse comes. The worship channel is playing. I cannot take preaching right now. Just this. The music. I can't even take the lyrics. Everyone who will help me has less and yet more than me. The others, I would never ask. Though their eyes aren't brown like the doctor's, their hearts match. No matter how I figure it, it won't add up. I drift off and she is there, the nurse. A solid woman, someone's grandmother. Someone who would definitely know how to quiet a baby or make cookies without refrigerated dough.
"You are a Christian," she says, more statement than question. Her fat hangs over the rail. That comforts me, reminds me of my grandmother's arms, flabby and capable.
"I am." Does my doubt show? Is my voice trembling? I don't feel like I believe in anything.
I believe in you.
Something happens then, a hazy honeysuckled something. The funk is gone and though her lips are still, her belly still embedded in the rail, the nurse is talking, moving. It's a humming noise and I'm fading away, into sleep, away from the flashing lights, growing closer and closer together, despite the medicine.
"Rest," she says as I disappear. "The road is long."
Where her hand was, plump and strong on my arm, there is something cold. A scream shatters my sleep.
"What is going on?" There are people moving around me in a hospital-green blur. I hear, try to understand. The IV has been only draining saline all night. I've dilated another centimeter. How come nobody knew? How come nobody did anything? Now she'll have to stay for sure, one says. Maybe even be turned upside down. She can't even go to the bathroom. They're still shouting, wondering why nobody did anything.
I'm wondering too. Not about them, but about Him. This is no name-it-claim-it faith, no level one thing. I offered Him my body when He asked me whose it was. That womb, I knew without looking was tired of growing fruit, but never tasting. He restored. Gave back. Now if He wanted to take away--me, them--what couldI say? Do? I'm too tired. I fade. He does too.
Brown Eyes is hovering over me. His stethoscope bangs my nose. He doesn't apologize. His kind never do. I think of the others, the bald twitchy one, the funny woman, the sun-kissed midwife who the state says can't help me now. It's been a long winding circle, one that brought me back to the painful beginning. Back to this brown, wiry man who has saved and taken many lives. He musters a fake smile, one believed years ago when I saw it the first time. The smile is an offering, but he doesn't go as far as to feign enthusiasm.
"You're in luck. We're sending you home."
The nurse drops something, but recovers nicely.
I don't speak, just look at him. Hard. I'm searching. There it is, in his left pupil. Just a glint, but it's there. I can't smell it, but I see it plain. He's weighed the money and I don't add up. I have enough children. What are two more? He's doing me a favor. That's what the thing told him. That's what he believes.
But that's okay. I have my own flinty eyes, set in wait for rescue, for salvation, though my once ironclad faith seems flimsy now. This battlefield is different from the others. Still, I wait. Beg. Plead. Only silence answers.
Silence and the sound of rickety wheels come to transport me to uncertainty, a hand drawn carriage to the tempest, an escort to the eye of the storm.
"Make money, son. Make lots of it. Even if it means selling out a little. Don't be a fool like me." Though Denzel was acting, it wrecked me. I remembered that feeling, in the wheelchair. Wishing I'd been better, done more, had money and a silk robe like the other woman who looked away as I rolled past her bed. There wasn't much I was good at, unless reading counted for something. There was the math, of course. I'd tried it all, but this was what He asked of me.
The serpent's question, so long silent, echoed. "Has God truly said?"
I shrugged, my cocky arrogance scraped clean, my Jesus flag blown away. Only one baby was moving now. I told them, but they just pushed faster. I did too, inside myself, running grabbing. If I lived through this, I'd have to do something. Be something. Maybe I'd write again... Words were free, weren't they? There was a storm coming, I'd have to figure it out later.
Next month, the twins will be four years old. I'd forgotten the storm, the stink, but it remembered me. This past week He held me silent in preparation, boarding up my soul.
There's a storm coming, one that threatens to blow my doors off. Oh yeah, and there's that hurricane headed this way, too.
I don't know which one scares me more.

Monday, September 06, 2004

A New Thing

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19, NIV)
That was quick, huh? So much for my solemn quietness. I got alone, preparing for the months of monastic silence and--I know this sounds really televangelistic, but bear with me--God laughed at me.
For real.
A deep down belly laugh, a rumbling of love, followed by, um, was that giggling? He came to me like a blanket, like a kiss and in that moment I saw it. The same thing as always. Fear. Escape. Though I'm leaving behind religion for relationship, I still crave it's corrals, safe nooks of do's and don'ts. Being here makes me feel uncertain, makes me remember what I was, what I still can be.
Unfortunately, I know these things by other names now. "Inappropriate." "Out of control." "Blunt." My wild praising, crying, writing ways have never been accepted by church people and in a last ditch effort to be good, I rejected them, too, curling my nostrils at others who dared be the woman I'd been.
They're going to put her out, I'd think and turn my head, praying that she would not be broken. Not me, I said. I didn't do such things.
But I did.
I do.
At home with my children, I twirl and dance, scream and wail, play purple tambourines and sing off key. Loud. One of my children has acquired the habit. While the rest of the youth remains silent or whispers softly, coolness in tact, she throws back her head, shouts from her heart and thinks them odd for not doing the same. I envy her that. The not knowing. I pray she won't ever know.
But there, under the rumble of God's sweet laughter, his chuckling at my great concerns, I remembered that I am just a storyteller, and that even I have a story. In these years of stuffing, varnishing, filing smooth, I have not dared examine any of it. His light was too bright and besides, there was no time. No room. Fellowship takes time, trust, suffering, love. Little of that can be found in narrow church hallways or packed parking lots. And so I wrote. It was silent, safe, and consuming. I learned quickly that my kind of fire wasn't wanted, but perhaps something in the smolder had value, had power.
But here is not that way. Here is the whole red-hot stinking thing. The me I once was, the me that heard grace pounding away and flocked to it, taking someone by the hand. "Hear that?" I'd say. "Girl, forget it. All of it. He loves us. It's all good."
For so long though, I've been dancing alone, whispering to the skeletons of dandelions, swaying to the hush. It was so quiet that I didn't hear the scream ripping through me, until it ripped through the blogosphere. Even then, I only let the tip of it sound, though I so sought the roars of others.
And so, it seems that there will be none of that convenient Jesus-doesn't-like-this running. My girls (the ones in my head) are done fighting and have decided that they'd like hear my story...and theirs. A compromise.
Not easy for one such as myself. All or nothing is more my speed. But this, this book, this year, this life is something new. Something wonderful.
And frightening.
Pray that I will have the courage to taste it slowly, to dig deep, scraping the sides, licking the spoon. Pray that I will stay still long enough for Him to heal it all.

Quiet Confidence

The Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says, "Only in returning to me and waiting for me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength." Isaiah 30:15
I've been a little quiet here lately. And rightly so. My thoughts about my little experiment here are mixed. Confused. What was to be the purpose of this place? I'm not sure, but certainly didn't go in any direction I expected. That, in itself, is good. My planning is generally not the best place to start.
It was a flood at first, the words, the thoughts, the poems that no one would really call poems. And that was wonderful then because I'd just finished a book, made new friends, discovered the blogosphere. Now, however, things have changed.
My characters are waking, waiting, pacing, while I siphon off a little of their juice into a cup for me to drink. I cup where no one can deny me the sweetness of truth, the lip-puckering angst of honesty. Who knew that so much censure had built up so many words, seeking a playground. That's what they sought at first, just a place to play. But now, I wonder if they don't seek an audience, don't desire to dance for a small crowd, then hide behind the curtain for applause.
That--the heady sentences peeking from behind the velvet curtain, lusting for approval, ears poised to hear the claps--is dangerous for me. It's dangerous for my characters. For if I find my release here, there will be no outlet for them. Already they are whispering amongst themselves, voices shrill and insecure.
"What's she doing?" they ask, nudging another who shrugs and turns away.
"Other stuff. That web thing. She's into that, you know. I read it. It's decent. Things we'd say if we could, but still..."
The first one, the one who is next, who has waited so patiently for her turn, looks troubled. "We're losing her, aren't we?"
Her friend, never one to be anything but true, nods and shakes the dust from his shoulders. "Yes, not all together, but yes."
And so I sit today trying to get back to them, to me, back to quiet confidence. Back to a hunger that drove me from my bed and kept me from sleep. Back to reality. I am not a non-fiction writer. I am not on hiatus. I am a novelist. Not the best one, either. There is so much to learn, so much to read, so much to write. It will take years to get where I want to be. Years and not a few. The words know that. They want to dance now. Today. But I must be careful, watchful that in their dancing they don't get hamstrung, wounded, unable to dance again.
I do not regret one word I've penned here and for the three or four people who've been reading, thank you. Thank you very much. It has been an honor for your eyes to pass over my weaknesses, to caress my hearts. For my blogger friends, I applaud your bravery, your strength. You have challenged me in ways you'll never understand.
For now though, I must return to Him, wait for Him. Wait for salvation, wait for Him to tell me a story, even if it's a story that I won't be allowed to share as meat, but rather a tale I will have to chew and spit into something liquid, something runny that I don't recognize. Even then, I must stay, wait, be quiet. He will save me.
He always does.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Love's Strength

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame. (Song of Solomon 8:6, NKJV)
When Death Comes by Mary Oliver
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
Being the bride is enough for me. The groom is too handsome to pass up. If she could muster such courage to face a dark cottage, should not I, facing an ever glory, live this way too? I want to. I try to. To be all here, all the time, bolted down in this world like a tv in a cheap hotel room. Yet, I cannot always. I am made of windows to the world invisible, one caulked with onion-thin pages and inky seas. It is that world where I twirl my truths on every side, peek beneath the belly of my beliefs. The world of make believe. It's strange, but wonderful.
Virginia Hamilton was like that. One of my first wonders. One of the first times I snuggled up in a dusty library and fell in love. There had been friendships, impartings, bonds of trust and understanding. But her books, her words, went beyond that. Like the Toni's, her long, strong words sifted through my fingers. I stretched my mind to catch even a syllable. I seldom did, but I always caught something. Something crazygood.
On the day Virginia died, twenty something years after our affair in the children's room, I awoke in pain, my mind ajar. I'd forgotten her. Let her behind, abandoned her. And for what? Books by grown ups who'd made up their minds about everything in order to say nothing. She was gone from me. Flown away. But only in part, for love is as strong as death. And the gift she left me, the best one, was a love, a giddy joy for books, a heart-stopping longing for libraries, a heart ever longing for the children's room.
I went to the library today, squatted down, forgot I was wearing a dress. Probably blinded some poor bloke behind me. I forget myself around so many books.
I always have.
It started long ago, back in a dusty corner of a library in Dayton, Ohio. It was the west side library, the black one, and I didn't go there often. I liked the smell of it though, like incense and rain. It was big and rumbling, smaller than the one downtown, but bigger too, you know? There was wood and not the flimsy kind of today, but glossy, sturdy, stood in the wind wood. My eyes tired from Roots and my head leaking Judy Blume (I'd just finished re-reading them all the day before), I sat in the corner and spied a curious book with a watercolor cover that seemed to bleed through to my hands.
The writer's name was unfamiliar, but the other books with her name there was the medal, the one that I knew meant something good. Only I didn't know how good. Crazygood. The title both confused and intrigued me. The Planet of Junior Brown. I stayed there in the dark myrrh that was the children's room and flew off somewhere.

"You okay?" It was my mother, sweaty from the gym, weary from her job, but loving me with all she had.

"No." No point lying. I wasn't okay. I never would be again. I'd read Maya by then, for the first time I think. Nikki. Mari. Even Gwendolyn the Great. But somehow this hazy dazy book brought all the music in my head together. The poetry.

And so I read more of it. As much of her I as could get. Zeely, M.C. Higgins, cousins and flying folk. I come back to them as an adult amazed at the depth and complexity. Even now, my poor children cringe when I go into Virginia mode.

"Can you just read Junie B. Jones?" they say, knowing that although Junie makes me ball up and scream in laughter, there are times for other things, other words. Words that paint thoughts, jump worlds, run on clouds. Every person needs a few of those. A Blue Eye, some salt-eaters, a little sula something. Some eyes to see God. Everybody needs it.
Especially me.
And she prepared me for them. Greased my wings.

When Virginia died, I mourned for her. And lately, I've been mourning for her again, wondering why I never went to her, why she never came to me. (Maya just ended up somewhere I was once). She lived in Yellow Springs, from where my own grandmother sprung, and there I was dangling between Springfield and Dayton on a kite, close enough to blow her my best kiss.
Why didn't I try and see her, know her? For one, I never knew she was there. In Ohio? I'd have never believed it. She certainly lived on her own planet, the planet of Junior Brown. Or perched on M.C. Higgins' pole each morning to reach the sun. Maybe she was like Zeely, six-feet-everything and towering over the world. But certainly she wasn't in Yellow Springs, loving a poet and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for her two kids, dreaming for me in the pauses. It didn't occur to my childish mind. And what would have been the point really, meeting her? I'd never be closer to her in the flesh than I was on the page. Never.

Makes me wonder some about this mess I've made here, which is turning out to be more of a sappy teenage notebook than anything. But maybe that's good. Maybe sometimes you just have to let things be. Let them live. Let them die. I let Virginia die, go from me, but she is always here, in my mind with the others, dancing across the page, scatting around the letters, doing word jazz, book blues.
Maybe one day, when I'm dead yet alive, I can live on in somebody's head too.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Our Father

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. (Matthew 6:9b, KJV)
I love the Lord's prayer. The language is so succinct, so powerful, summing up all the needs of life in the span of a few lines. Yet it's the first line that used to stumble me. The "our father." In truth, it still does. Especially on days like today.
"You should never take a child away from a parent, even if it's just a fish."--Mitchell Dawson to his daughter, explaining why he didn't eat sardines, Misdemeanor
That line, the one above, sliced me like a can opener, cut me open at the gut. I just finished the book the quote is pulled from, sent to me by the author, a friend I've spent the past year corresponding with but not really knowing, as evidenced by the stab of her pen. A good stab and in a very few pages. A talent for the the lean she has, one I lack.
It's a short book, 134 pages. There's a 1000 pages of stuff in there though, hiding between the periods, sleeping under the commas. It got tight for me around page 100. I had to put it down. I tried to tell myself that was about savoring it (partly true) but the real deal was that it hit on some issues that live in my back room. The main clock she cleaned? The--my--inability to accept love because I'm scared I'm going to lose it. Malena (the main character) had the same root thing, the same question. "How can I love somebody when they're going to leave me?" After all, he left me.
Though I hate to admit it, so much goes back to that Captain Kangaroo moment. He was there and then he was gone. I was young, so young they said it wouldn't matter. But it did.
It does.
He is oceans away now, but still here, always lurking at the edges of me--eyes of fire, shoulders of steel, lips full of big words and loving power. Even then, he gave me some of those words, words others thought I was too young to understand. His touch, his eyes, translated. I always understood him. It was other folks that didn't make sense.
He worked hard, learned hard, loved hard. Believed little in intellect ("an American convention") and more in perseverance. In sacrifice. I inherited this passion, this dangerous wonder, the one that set him upon the altar.
After days as an engineer, he sold African art to the wide-eyed people with curious, pale hands and afroed brown folk looking for a slice of her--Africa--and perhaps a piece of him. She was all of over him--me. Still is. It was the seventies. Our time. One hundred shades of brown. Even so, he was too much for them.
I sat on the counter, I'm told, keeping watch over all that was his. I believe that. It must be so, for the loss of him, which to this day has never been clearly explained to me, is still keenly felt. I feel it now as God gifts me with friends of my heart, bosom friends that I prayed for, and I love them a while, then pull away. It is too good. I feel greedy to keep accepting, giving. I Wonder if there will be any left for later if I use it up now. In my heart though, I know that I must use it, take it, give it. Having many children has taught me that only loving can give birth to greater love.
This loss, it makes me struggle to accept the gift that is my brick, it makes me nervous about building too tall on all that he is. All that we are. I don't want to make it too high, this love. It's already so far above my head.
It might fall.
Like he fell, flung far across the night from me. Flung onto another sky.
He emailed me today. For the second time.
I replied.
More poems, the old ones, definitely 2000. It was a painful, poetic year. A wing-sprouting year.
Ebo Warrior

A million nights
In my dreams
You rode on the sun
To rescue me

They tell me I am just like you
I almost believe them too
That must be why

I am
so wide
so deep
so long
so smart
so fierce
so strong

I am an Ebo warrior too.
Why did you not take me with you?


Today at school
I met your friend
He read my name
Just like you say it

His eyes grew big
As Moon Pies
When he raved about your
Brilliant mind
Family line
Sine and cosine

I smiled and told him
I knew all about your
Firm behind
Engineering design
Running blind

He looked sad then
So I told him it was okay
I have a daddy anyway
I told him all about His
Divine design
Paid the fine
Walks the line
Gave His for mine

Your friend smiled
He knows Him too

Copyright Marilynn Griffith, 2000-2004.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Never Ashamed

Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
Shame is a powerful thing. A hurting thing. Especially when you haven't done anything wrong. When folks are supposed to love you, cover you and they don't. Can't.
It's the dirt that soils the bright garments of virgins, the gall in the cups of old men, the whisper on the lips of old women, the venom of the accuser.
"Has God truly said? To YOU? I mean, come on. . ." This thing, it doesn't even bother to hiss, but speaks clearly. Articulate. Bold.
He's baiting me, as always, but I don't have time today. I have work to do, love to give. I sigh, thankful that there is One who holds court for me at all hours. For all times. I turn to Him, tired, drop to my knees. "There's someone here to see You."
He moves toward me, this Brightness. Though I can't see His face, the light bends. Like a smile. Thunder cushions his feet. Lightning dances from fingertips. The prosecutor's scales push through his skin. "You have forgotten who you are. What you've done. . ." He pauses. This is usually where I start to fight, to defend myself.
Not today.
Today, I look up, up, and up some more. Up at my sustenance, my Life. He is sweet to me now. Too sweet for me to spare a breath of His praise, His worship on Leviathan.
The light bends, refracts, explodes into a sea of stars, pinpricks of light. Light that melts down my skin, washes me. The light of my darkness. The sea of my tears.
The Light speaks. "I knew about that, but I chose to forget." Light shifts my way, caresses my toes. "You should forget too, daughter of light. Go forth, and do not be ashamed."
The worm knows the outcome, but looks to the Judge anyway, beady eyes narrowed.
The verdict is like music. "Not guilty."
A moon-ribbon, slim yet delicious, settles around my shoulders, now slack with sweet relief. At my feet is a film, thin like egg whites, the beginnings of a death mask long since shed.
The mask of shame.
And there's a poem. And old one, 2000 or so, I think.
Tamar’s Flight
I was ultraviolet, radiating the brilliance of winter's first snow, inviolate and unprofaned. Then leviathan swept me from the heavens, spilling my sunshine onto unwashed lineoleum.

Aspiring to save at least the moon-juice, warmed by a thousand suns and poured into the prism between my diamond eyes, I struggled to shine. Alas, it was too late. I was opaque now and fading fast.

Plummeting, I tried to lick a rainbow from the bottom of his shoe, but he laughed, swallowed it whole. I saw a star stuck between his teeth. I leapt for it to the crescendo of shadows as he drank the dregs of my bright-eyed childhood.

He slinked away, leaving the dirge of shame churning in my ears. I tried to smother it with my virtue, shredded and impotent, but the charcoal sieved through it, staining every cell.

I crawled back to my room screaming. Go back to sleep they said. I dried my eyes and tried to scrape the night, funky and thick, from between my toes.

Eventually, I forgot my blaze and danced after midnight for fire crackers and holy water. Sometimes I saw a burning man beside me, whispering my old name.

One night He caught me exposed. Dying. He offered a hunk of flesh and a shot of blood. Incredulous and desperate, I took and ate.

To my surprise, beams of light, fat and ridiculous, shot from my face igniting into a sunrise. A mask of sooty madness crashed in seven-eighths time at my feet.

I fly now in daytime, spectrum magnificent, looking for little girls in three-pieced suits with black-stained mouths they try to scrub when no one is looking.