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.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Parts of Speech

. . . The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. (Acts 11:26b, NIV)
"So what do you do?" She's counting heads, I can tell. One of the kids smile at her, then holds up seven fingers.
"I'm a mom, pretty much."
"She's a writer. She works on the 'puter." He is so proud. Snaggle-tooth proud.
Writing rules I read somewhere wash over me. Show don't tell. Resist the urge to explain. Never use flashbacks. They don't work well in my fiction, but come in handy in real life. Unfortunately, I chose to forgo them this time.
"I'm a Christian writer." Now she's figuring birthdays, but the twins are stumping her. Just like my answer.
She puts down her fingers. "A Christian writer? You translate the Bible? Like one of those missionfairies?"
My eyes bulge. "Not exactly. I write stories about Christians." Is that right? Not exactly. Why did I leave the house today? "I write stories for Christians?" It comes out a question and rightly so. That isn't it either. "I'm a Christian who writes books." My head hurts. That's as close as I can come today.
"Mom, did she say mission FAIRIES?"
She doesn't move away. She moves closer. Please God, don't let a Happy Meal box fall out of the van. No, just a shoe. I'm feeling sick. She doesn't seem to notice. "Stories about Christians? Like in the Sunday School paper?"
"There's a french fry in my carseat. It's sticking me in my butt, Mommy! In. My. BUTT!"
My lip is trembling. "It's okay, honey. We're going. Just hand it here." Why, oh why did I think we needed milk? We didn't. We really didn't. I give her my best smile. Where where we? Sunday school papers. "I do some of that sometimes. Articles, essays, stuff like that." The ice cream is melting.
"No, lady. She makes up kissy stories. They do bad stuff and kiss Jesus and get married."
Is this a nightmare?
Her eyes look like headlights in a hurricane. "Kissy stories?" She pulls her smock tighter around her sides, giving me the I-knew-it face.
Why do I always want to laugh at times like this? "Well, um, I write some of those too. I just do whatever. All kinds of things. Whatever God gives me." Now we're getting closer. But she's moving father away.
"Mommy, I'm melting. It's sooooooo hot. Does she have a 'puter? Can't you e-mail her later?"
This is sad. So very sad. "Thanks M'am. For all your help."
She takes the cart with a snort. "Christian writer, my foot. Anybody that's got to call themself something probably ain't that something. Bring me the book, I'll see for myself."
"Will do."
When the first book drops, I will take her one and a thank you note, for making me remember that Christian isn't just a modifier. When did "Christian" move from a compassionate noun to a lazy adjective in my vocabulary? I don't know. I am a Christian writer. It's all I know how to be. My very pulse is tied to Him. But if that's true, shouldn't somebody else know it besides me?
Edit my life, Jesus. Make love a verb again. Draw the word 'Christian' from a mouth other than my own. May my feeble words be manna to the drifting, balm for the hurting and hope for those on both sides of the walls. Love on me, Jesus. Love on me hard.
Faith Fragments
My belief hangs like a dangling participle in the sentence that is Yours. "Jesus is Lord," I whisper to the stranger before he can tell me his troubles, show me his pain, making me thirty feet late for church.
I'm already late. They already think I'm crazy. I don't have time to pray for those red rings rimming her eyes. "God bless you," is easier. We've got to go. The fries are getting cold. My heart is, too.
Here I am, a flickering flame, held high with other sputtering lanterns. We run, smoldering beacons raised on a road to nowhere, while the world plunges past, diving into a burning chasm.
"God has a wonderful plan for your life," we whisper as the road runs out beneath them, dropping them into the blaze.
We shrug, keep moving, thankful to be on the right path, in the right direction. "At least it wasn't me."
But it would have been. If somebody hadn't moved the cross from a place to a person, risked all to make love a truth instead of a lie, it would have been me. I smelled the smoke, heard the crackle of burning flesh--
And then, somebody snatched me. I didn't bother to ask her name. I knew who she was, and not because of a bracelet or a bumper sticker. As she stop-drop-and-rolled me away from hell, there was no confusion about who she was.
A Christian.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

No Answer

And his anger burned against his three friends because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job. (Job 32:3, NASB)
"One of the hardest things we must do sometimes is to be present to another person's pain without trying to "fix" it, to simply stand respectfully at the edge of that person's mystery and misery. Standing there, we feel useless and powerless, which is exactly how a depressed person feels - and our unconscious need as Job's comforters is to reassure ourselves that we are not like the sad soul before us... in an effort to avoid those feelings, I give advise, which sets me, not you, free. If you take my advise, you may get well - and if you don't get well, I did the best could. If you fail to take my advise, there is nothing more I can do. Either way, I get relief by distancing myself for you, guilt free."
"I had always imagined God to be in the same general direction as everything else that I valued: up. I had failed to appreciate the meaning of some words that had intrigued me since I first heard them in seminary - Tillich's description of God as the "ground of being." I had to be forced underground before I could understand that the way to God is not up but down.
The underground is a dangerous but potentially life-giving place to which depression takes us; a place where we come to understand that the self is not set apart or special or superior but is a common mix of good and evil, darkness and light; a place where we can finally embrace the humanity we share with others. That is the best image I can offer not only fo the underground but also of the field of forces surrounding the experience of God."
--Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak
I got this quote from here. It sums up so much of my thoughts today. How often I have been one of Job's visitors. And worse still, have seen them walking my way, weeping and wailing, then settling among my ashes in silence. The quiet is comforting. For as long as it lasts. Why can't I remain quiet, allow the mystery and misery to play out? I cannot, it seems. Not even for myself. Sitting at another's side, I am reminded that soon I will sit here, scraping boils from my mind. Waiting for His hand, for His restoration.
Palmer speaks well (I'm not sure about the 'field of forces' though. Smacks of Luke Skywalker...). God is found in the dark wrestle of the night as well as the smooth lightness of morning, where we find new names and limbs out of joint. Where we find the blessing.

Lord, help me to remember this when I am well and another is here. To be silent and patient, knowing that she will--You will--triumph. To remember that a seed cannot bring life unless the shoot cracks it open, tears it through. To remind myself we're all just bread distributors, an easy job, but no good without the crumbs.
And there's only one way to get the crumbs--to endure the fight silently, watch the hunks ripped off, the exquisite loaf broken, the healthy blood watered into wine, knowing this is fellowship. Communion. Preparation. Reasonable service.
Knowing there is no answer but You.

Another Pot

So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. (Jeremiah 18:3,4, NIV)
I hadn't planned to come here today, but there must be a place to weep, to laugh, to nod silently at oneself as God's fingers press gently, then harder. . . A place to sit while joints snap and marred, misshapen clay is caked into a lump, then smashed against the wheel, to be made into another pot.
One that seems best to Him.
And so I come, with questions that seem never to have answers. The answers that once consoled me only provide more questions. This is the faith I wanted, a true one. One with flesh hanging from its frame, with a beating, pulsing heart. No one told me that it would be my own flesh, my own heart that would be required.
Funny though, I should have known.
The best things are totally free and yet cost all--all my preconceptions, all my comfortable believisms and all my propaganda prayers. Today, I can find none of it to cling to, save a little dust on the floor, earth that was once my feet. Now I am shapeless, nothing, wondering what He will make me into.
A Starbucks teacup perhaps. . .
I've got the tipping over and pouring out down pat.
Free Refills
The waitress comes to pour me latte/Asks if I want more/I tell her no and sip my water/It tastes different than before
It isn't boiled clean or sterilized/It's a living stream of something/Gushing before my eyes
I take a sip, hold my throat/This drink isn't cold/It's a truth shake, a fire float
This is painful, cleansing brew/So why am I afraid to drink/Afraid of what it'll make me do
Fill me, Lord with You.
Fill me, Lord with You.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Precious Waste

But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people. And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? (Mark 14:2-4, KJV)
It's a wondrous and horrible thing to be a precious waste, to live life oozing through the fragments of broken stone, to remind yourself everyday that it was worth it, that you clung to Him, poured yourself out upon Him, that your best soaked into His skin.
Sometimes, I forget to remind myself. Sometimes I get confused, start looking for that houndstooth-check suit I'll never fit again and those navy-and-white spectator shoes. Her shoes. I cannot fit them. I never did. He crafted for me no such covering for my feet. I am to walk bare most times. Times like this.
"But you are so talented, Mary. Smart. You're better than this."
I sigh. "I'm not."
"But you helped me, and you helped them. Now it's time to help yourself, to help your kids. And him too. He should. . ." The voice fades to the back of my understanding. I peek into the fridge, creating in my head a dinner from stir fry vegetables and sixty-nine cent hot dogs. Maybe if I put some cheese on top. . .
"Are you listening to me?"
Disgust flutters through the line on wide, black wings. "See, that's the problem with you, you never listen to me."
I discard the stinky olives and feta cheese with the wilted spinach. Behind it, there is something. A tomato, glorious and red. It smiles at me. "You're right. I don't listen. You have no credibility with me."
Disbelief blows in my ear. "I have no credibility with you?" The whisper mounts to a shout. "I'm a counselor-minister-ordained-maintained-right-brained-superChristian-got-more-than-you-got--"
"But you're not broken." I don't say it accusingly, or with any conviction. Most days, I have to try not to superglue myself back together to try and be outside-right.
"There is a place where you cannot escape. He hedges You in. The more you fight, the worse it gets. There are times to be still. Like now. It's time to make dinner. I know you mean well. It's all good. I still love you."
No silence now. There are tears. "You make me sick, you know it? Talking like that. What are you trying to do, make a fool of me? You make things sound so simple when they aren't." A brave pause. "Sometimes I hate you."
A gold corner peeks at me from behind a mushy loaf of bread. Yellow rice. The good kind. I am giddy. "I know. Sometimes I hate you too. But He loves us, you know? Do you have any olives? Mine are bad."
"Yes, I'll bring them over."
I pause. "I'll swing by and get them."
"It's okay, I don't have to come inside. But I want to."
Jesus, can't I just make dinner? NO. "You can come in, but close your eyes."
"They're already closed. I need you to help me open them . . ." The voice trembles. "I need you to help me to get broken."
A noise strangles in my throat. Not laughing really, more like a rye chuckle, tinged with tomatoes. Did I really throw that feta away? STOP STALLING.
"I can't help you get broken. Only He can do it. Just get up there and lay down, stop sliding off the stone. Wait till it gets dark. Cold. Don't say anything. Not even to yourself. He will come then. Break you."
The knife slips from my hand. I sink to my knees. I'm crying now, wishing I'd scrubbed the floor. I would have if I'd known I'd be snotting on it. "He will come and smash it all, then pass through the pieces."
"How will I know when He's done?"
My stomach knots. Maybe we'll just eat cereal. . . The question stops me cold, makes me stretch out, palms down, heart open. My cheek is stuck to the floor, but I try to talk anyway. The baby is crying. "When you see your head across the room and feel all your good stuff running down your leg, He's getting started. When He's done. . .you'll hear a trumpet."
Precious Waste
Why is it so easy to give You the stained stuff with holes in it, the t-shirts with people's names I've never heard, the orange sundress no human would ever wear?
But my good stuff, the treasure--I feel greedy with that sometimes when the phone rings and I have no answers, when those lovely, God-people purse their lips and collect themselves lest they be stained by me and mine.
Sometimes I just want to run a hand down that vein where You sliced me and just get a drop of that sweet savour that cost everything. But how could I complain? You bought the box.
Still on low-down-don't-have-nothing days, I want to get a little of it on my finger, that spikenard that was me and dab it behind my ears and go to them on tiptoe, whispering,"Smell."
But that would just be silly. Foolish. They do not deserve even a whiff of this. To give it to them would be a precious waste.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

My Heart Waketh

I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. (Song of Solomon 5:2, KJV)
I came this morning, thinking, that perhaps I would clean up some of the blood spilled here, but alas, it's not to be. There's always so much to say, so many broken walls, torn pieces of me. But today I will speak of a brick, strong and brown, baked in the Caribbean sun. A solid thing of a man, God's gift to me. It was he who looked past my dust and saw my wings.
That was okay. Cool even. Many people, even civilian people who will never fly looked close enough to see them before. But he wanted more than to just look at them. "Let me see. Turn around." That was unacceptable.
I ran. I screamed. Yet, I could not get off the ground. No matter how much of a start I got, I stayed rooted to the earth. Beside him. "Why are you doing that?" he asked, picking Sharon Roses and Valley Lilies and stuffing them in my pockets.
That made me run faster, take another pass. "I'm trying to go, to fly away. But I can't. So you must go. Go now, before it's too late."
He laughed at me. A chocolate, delicious laugh. I felt sick. How would I ever live without that sound? "I'm not leaving," he said, with those ridiculously beautiful eyes. "So you might as well sit down." He did, as if for an example. "I'm not going anywhere. I love you."
My throat closed up. I hadn't escaped in time. Maybe he could still get away. I pushed him with my words, shoved him as hard as I could.
He didn't budge. "Stop it," he said as the insults hurled past him. "I love you."
"Don't love me. Please. You don't know what you're getting into. I'm crazy." My wings released then, filled the room. He saw it all--pink, purple, gold, blue--the whole beautiful mess of me. I closed my eyes, knowing that when I opened them, he, like all the others, would be gone.
Blink. Peek.

He's still there, eating a pork chop. "Girl, please. Sit down. Let's talk. Communicate. That's what people do, you know. What kind of people have you been dealing with?"
You don't want to know.
Charles Barkley was on the TV. Boxing out, posting up, refusing to move. The Brown Mound of Rebound. Just like him. He licked his fingers, smiled at me. I shuddered. What kind of game was this? Love? Please. He had to get out of here. Right now. And I knew just the thing.
I sat next to him. He took my hand, diluted my focus. But it had to be done.
"You ready to talk to me? To tell me what's wrong? Not that it matters." He took another bite, real close to the bone.
It would matter. It always did. I grinned bittersweetly, knowing this kindness would end. This wonder. "I'm pregnant."
He kept chewing, his twenty-year-old eyes still locked on the TV. "That's it? I thought you were dying or something. Just a baby? I can deal with that." He took my hand and kissed it.
I stared at the barbecue sauce smeared on my skin. The hope in me, the fool that I thought long dead, yawned and stretched her legs. His heartbeat knocked at the door of me like police at a crack house.
He put down his sandwich, stared at me, into me, with talking eyes.
Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled.
My stomach turned as Hope rubbed her eyes, waking her long slumbering sisters. Faith roused first, smiling, her kinky braids pointing in every direction. Open the door, honey, she whispered to me. He isn't alone. You Know Who is out there too.
He kissed my eyes. "It'll be okay. We can make it. God will help us."
Love sprang to her feet, knocked me out of the way. Ran to the door. There was smoke whistling in from the cracks. I tried to call her back, to tell her she'd be burned, but she ran faster, grabbed the red-hot handle and swung it wide. The man I'd mistaken for a boy came in. His clothes were not burnt. He didn't even smell like smoke. There was another with him, One with hair like white wool. One like the Son of Man.
I hung my head, but He held it up. "Fear not."
"But the baby isn't his."
He smiled. "I know. The baby is mine."
With that, He was gone from sight, leaving me in a snug, brown embrace, showered with pork-chop-and-macaroni-and-cheese kisses. I knuckled the grit out of my eyes, out of my heart. Though it terrified me, it was good to be awake.
The Best Poem
Last night, I told you the best poem that ever came to me. It was divine, yet I made no move for my pen.
It was just for you.
Though I doubt you thought it more than another useless diatribe, I hope for one second that you saw me once more, painting words in technicolor with my wingtips in slow motion.
I hope for one minute, you laughed with me and not at me. But even if you didn't, the verse was yours. The best poem I ever wrote.
I can't remember one word.

Monday, August 16, 2004

A Hateful Love

However, he would not listen to her; since he was stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her. Then Amnon hated her with a very great hatred; for the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. (2 Samuel 13:14, 15)
When something is so broken, has always been broken, you begin to wonder where it cracked. I mean, did it all fall off at once or were there little fissures, seams so small that I didn't notice. . .
There was the first day, when the plaster splintered over my head. The day we left home and went to Grandma's. Daddy didn't come. I never saw him again. Captain Kangaroo was there though. Faithful. Consistent. Somebody should have told me then that those were the best men, the ones you could count on--the ones that weren't real.
Not that I'd have listened. Nothing could silence the man-hunger in my belly, the abandonment in my bones. I learned soon enough that men had a hunger too--a yearning. Only it was something I didn't understand. Something I still don't understand. Something bigger than a crack, worse than a splinter. Something like a wrecking ball, that orphaned me loveless.
The first man, yet a boy, lying in wait, swung the crane. Knocked down my walls. A boy from school, not one that I paid attention to. It didn't occur to me to wonder how he knew where I lived. So smart, yet so stupid. "Can I use the phone?" he asked. Needed to call his mother, to get home. I wasn't allowed to open the door, but it didn't stop me. Someone was in need. If only I'd known what kind of need.
I didn't love him. I didn't know what love was beyond Maya Angelou and my grandmother's cinnamon rolls. Laying there, saying no and not being heard, I decided love didn't exist. My mother came home.
"Did you peel the potatoes?" she asks, ignorant of my demise.
She frowned at me.
I stand broken, bleeding, wondering why she doesn't know, can't see. In a blur, I realize that she is fighting her own fight and has not eyes to spare for mine.
Two weeks later, the boy came back, stole our stereo. I guess he didn't take enough on the first visit. He never spoke to me again. He hated me more than he had loved me, if he had ever loved me at all. Ten years later, holding the hand of a friend while a police officer defined rape, I choked back a scream. That happened to me, too.
For this, I have Jesus.
And a poem, of course.
No Choice
The marchers walk over faded sidewalks in an elliptical path, signs held high, frowns firm, Demanding that she
Turn around/choose life/just say No
I stare at her, reading her hurt, in cold and wounded eyes. Eyes that tell me that she did say No, but learned quickly the word's feebleness, echoing her own weakness back in her ears, burning in her throat, unheeded. Now, her eyes said, she says nothing, only turns to the wall, counting moldy roses on basement wallpaper.
My sign, already half mast, knocks against my shoulder as she darts inside. The oblong trail pauses, the chants die to a whisper. The volume resumes.
Another girl is coming.
I step back, praying now
For her
For us
For me
For the faulty writers of empty-hearted rhetoric like pro-life and pro-choice.
If she thought she had a life or a choice, she never would have let the
her only treasure.
I cry for her, knowing that one day, she will grow up and find a stray diamond left between her thighs and realize
That she had a choice after all.
Copyright. Marilynn Griffith 2004.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

My Rear Guard

For you shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight; for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard. (Isaiah 52:12, NKJV)
There isn't much worse than thinking you looking good only to realize that you got some flesh hanging out. In all the wrong places. Sometimes though, it can't be helped. You hurt too bad hold your gown closed. Your heart is too broken to pull your pants up. I've had days like that.
When they came to take my baby away, my mother and the lawyer looking relieved as my fourteen-year-old fingers jerked across the page, I felt like that. Naked. Raped. Betrayed. But what could I do? They'd made their points clear. I had nothing. Was nothing. And nobody was going to pick up my slack. If I had any notion of what love was (they obviously doubted it), I would do the right thing. Too bad Spike hadn't made the movie then.
So I laid there, bleeding in such a horror of pain. Pain that didn't seem possible. A head-to-toe ache from the Pitocin-Epidural war of my induction. It was my birthday. They brought me a cake with no candles and fake smiles. I stared right through them. It wasn't the gift I needed.
What I needed was down the hall, crying in the hands of strangers. And so I went, forcing one quaking leg in front of the other, gripping the walls with a crazed halo of jheri curl. "Look at that child. Her behind all hanging out," one of the cleaning ladies whispered to another. I could feel their heads nodding behind me, but I didn't stop to cover myself. There was no time. I would faint soon.
I made it to the glass. There she was, so small, so sweet. Like an old woman she looked up at me, through me like I had those silly birthday people. "I'll be all right," her eyes seemed to say. "You won't." I swallowed before I hit the ground, knowing she was right.
Now, seven children and twenty years later, the hole is still there, covered by a tarp of hope stretched tight. The whole that brought mind fire, the one that broke my head. I have neither time nor funds for nervous breakdowns. So I write books. Even then, my rear refuses to stay covered. Thankfully, He's sent friends to cover me.
"I would like to go there, but what will I say, what will I wear?" I say, empty, tired. "You can't go with your butt hanging out. Maybe next year, you know? The book isn't out, the garment ain't made," she says, no idea what she's really saying. I hang my head. "But He told me to go." There is a pause on the line. "All right. I'll cover you. Watch the mail." And so she does. And I'm thankful. Sometimes you need friends to hold up your hands, but there ain't nothing like the ones who cover your backside. I want to be that kind of friend when I grow up.
When she comes for me, with those wide, wise eyes, if she'll let me, I want to cover her too.
Needful Things
I pray for you each day, hoping that all they said in the brochure came true. That you don't reach for me like I claw for you.
Probably not.
And that's a good thing. Being too needy is trouble. That's how I got you. Needing some love, some attention, some understanding. The counselor never did get that. She just kept saying, "But you're a straight A student." Didn't she know that was need too?
Thing was, I didn't get any of that. Not the love, nor the attention and none of the understanding. Just a drafty gown in a cold hall and folks looking at me like I was crazy.
And I was.
I am.
Crazy about you.
The State of Ohio says that I can never be your mother. Though it pains me, I know it's true. You've got one of those. Instead, I will bend knees for you again today and be your warrior, praying creases into the rearview of your life.
Asking Him to fill the need you got from me. Begging him to be your Rear guard, your Needful Thing.
Copyright Marilynn Griffith 2004

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Sand Scribbles

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. "Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?" They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. (John 8:3-6, NASB)
Humans love to restate the obvious. A woman is caught with someone's husband. She knows she's an adulteress. Everybody knows. She doesn't want to expect any different from this man, this Jesus, but she's heard things. . .
Whenever I see a sinner, wrecked and bleeding, being led to center court, I wonder if they too have a glimmer of hope, whether they pause to see if a pardon is scribbled in the sand or perhaps the truth about the sins of her accusers. Why is that those who need the most grace often give the least?
I am guilty of that. Gracelessness. I can extend extravagant understanding to my sistah circle, but sometimes the folks who love me, feed me get dragged into the middle of the room to hear what they already know. What they need to hear, that I too have been caught loveless, careless, guilty, chokes in my throat untold.
Even here, I pour out morsels meant for my own souls, insatiable in longing for the truth from me. One of mine will take no less. Not anymore. She's grown too old for my slight of hand. She knows all the tricks of my worn magic. When I put her in the circle, she no longer stares at the ground but levels her eyes at me in all my hypocrite splendor.
Even this little bit of word dancing makes me wonder. How far to go? How much to tell? Most of my stuff is about these people who love me, make me realize that it is I who deserves the office of chief sinner. Will I ever get it right? Probably not. But when He comes. . .
In a rush of wings, swoop of air, all will be well. She will know that in all my bumbling, I loved her.
Mirror, Mirror
Seems only yesterday you bounced past me, beads clanging, in your Kindergarten coat. I thought you'd be short forever.
What a fool I was.
Now, with forever legs and endless curiosity, you are becoming something defiantly lovely. Wonderfully beautiful.
I know your vision is sharp these days and you see the strings to all my puppets, know how I throw my voice, hide my soul.
You see my weak, flaking faith before I can exfoliate. Please. Love me anyway. I know I don't deserve it. I don't deserve you, a long, lean reflection of the best of me.
Just when I feel hopeless, you lean up at me, dragging your dreamy fingers in the sand. Those scribbles are my only hope. Thank you.
Copyright Marilynn Griffith 2004.


August 11, 2004
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8, NIV)
Yesterday, after I sent off the book, I thought about cookies, and Christmas and fat baby toes. I thought about times when I think I have so little and then one of my children brings me squished flowers and a snaggle-toothed smile, asking for peanut butter and honey, all that I have to offer. Isn't it good when what you have is just the right thing? Not something that can be made right or adapted to be acceptable, but the straight-up-thank-you-Jesus-just-what-I-was-looking-for right thing?
I do.
There have been few moments like that in my life--moments of not having to fold up my wings and lower my voice, moments when people smiled if I laughed too loud and ate with my fingers, moments when my favorite outfit was only available in a size 18, when everybody in the house tolerated my crazy cranberry white chocolate cookies without throwing up. Moments of acceptance. Seconds of grace.
I love those times, but the truth is, each day assaults the possibility of another just-right time. Every person I come in contact with (and vice versa) is trying to superimpose themselves upon me, to edit my life with stifling semicolons and proper pauses. Sometimes they are right. They think my cookies are good after all, just not broad enough in their appeal. "Pick cranberries or white chocolate," they say. And so I do. The result is pretty, the edges crisp. Any food photographer would love them.
Why then, do they taste like dog food to me? I chew silently, lamenting the sweet-sour pain forever lost to cookie buyers, hoping that still somehow one person will have a just-what-I-needed moment.
I doubt it, but God surprises me every day. In fact, lately, the only thing I expect from Him IS to be surprised. I'm laughing, but hurting too, wondering whether it is better to pleasure ten people to tears with everything intended or to provide for thousands pretty, safe snacks.
Oh well, I'm not that great a cook anyway. I just know what I like. I never realized until now how powerful that is, to know what you like. That's my cape, my lasso and the boots too. I need to feel something way down to the bones. I guess there's no law against skin deep cookies. It all ends up the same place. :)
May you be to someone today just what is needed: the scalpel to save, the hand to help, the food to fill, the heart to love, the alla that in their alla this, the Christmas cookie in August. Just be.
As an apricot tree stands out in the forest, my lover stands above the young men in town. All I want is to sit in his shade, to taste and savor his delicious love. (Song of Solomon 2:3, MSG)
Umph. Anybody got an apricot recipe?
Oh yeah, and there's a poem. But you knew that, didn't you?
The Dozens
I like white chocolate chips in mine, with cranberries, pecans or something funky. Always just a little something.
You wince, pursing your oatmeal-raisin-peanut-butter lips. "Too sweet," I hear you say in the direction of my lumpy, chunky mess.
Unwilling to lament the tart virtue of the cranberry, I smile and place my
white red brown
chunky nutty
sour sweet
just too much
cookies in a heap, reaching for the oatmeal and brown, flat raisins. For a moment, I consider trying golden ones instead, but I won't do you like that. Not today. Not knowing how much you rely on things being what you expect.
Behind me, you prowl softly, hands around my waist, kissing me with cranberry-pecan-mocha breath. I stroke your face, thinking of the dozens of crazy cookies you eaten from my feeble hands.
You lick your thumb when I'm not looking. I stir faster, careful only to go counterclockwise, pretending not to see.
Don't worry. Your secret is safe with me.
Copyright Marilynn Griffith 2004.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

A City Without Walls

Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls. (Proverbs 25:28, NKJV)
The sound of my thunder swelled, demanding sweet release. After all, I was right, wasn't I? I thought so , roaring through matted fur.
My raw, scratchy scream drowned out the grating, s
craping, when the first bricks broke away, when the walls rained mud.
I was too busy screaming to notice.
It wasn't until an enemy skittered past me with a trunk of gold--my bride price--that I realized the ambush, longed for the lost plunder.
Now I sit, defenseless. Only the stone remains.
And Him, of course.
The carpenter sits with me, kind enough not to mention my destruction. The empty city, ashes, corpses, are punishment enough. He holds my hand for three nights as I weep.
On the fourth morning, something foul chews the air. "How long before others come," I ask, knowing well the answer, but hoping for comfort.
His truth burns me through. We both know what they will do if they find me here. Like this. The stone will stand, but my flesh, my mind. . . I swallow a stab of memory. They've found me here before. . . I lived here once. Died here.
Help me.
Kindness creases the corners of His eyes. I hear hoofbeats. Far off, but too close. There is no where to run. He smiles, carving quickly a table from the rubble, baking it with His fire. A cup too. No chair is needed.
I have the stone.
He brings the cup to my mouth. The wine pours through me,. One stitch bursts. A new skin will be needed later. Now death dances near, pounding the ground like talking drums, yet unable to make words. Only Love can make the words.
Love speaks. "Rise and build, daughter."
I stand, accepting his hammer with a trembling hand. So many years since I've built from nothing. Perhaps too long.
Hoofbeats explode as they approach, a black swarm topping the hill. In a moment, he's reframed the walls. Stubble is offered again. I refuse, taking a handful of obsidian and tossing it over my head. Turquoise is next. Granite. The diamonds look tempting, but that would be too flashy. Presumptuous. There were none in my dowry. I don't deserve them.
He shakes his head. "You never asked. Take some."
Drinking my tears, I still bypass them, tossing emeralds, rubies. I stop, turn around. Take a handful of diamonds, huge like sparkling fists.
"I mined those from you."
I can't think of what to say. Besides, they're coming. "Can I make an adornment out of one?" I ask.
He laughs. "Later."
As always, He is right. There will be time. I run, hammer in hand, smashing the stones. Columns of wonder spring up. I cry as the horseman arrives, leaps, only to fall back.
The carpenter is hidden now, leaving only a diamond-crusted afro pick in my mane. There will be no roaring unless it is for Him. I'll rest instead on the open place I left this time.
The place in the center of the Stone.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


Isaiah 40:31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
All I can do is hope. Hope that I am who I think I am, that He is who He says He is. Until now, I thought I knew. All the answers, chapter and verse. And then a spider, dressed in red silk, bit me, took a bite out of my life. Though pressure was applied and the wound washed, cleaned and dressed, I cannot walk. There is no assurance in my step.
Have I truly been standing upon a rock? Or deceptively cemented in the quicksand of my own good intentions, my ankles strangled by the tatters of my own righteousness? It's all a blur now, my lists of good and bad, my fears of contamination, of pollution.
For it is me who is most foul, perverse, crooked.
And so I come hoping. Will He make my crooked places straight? Make me clean? Or should I just tie my shirt in the front like the others and leave the silk in the corners of my mind? Put down my broom and dance on a table myself? I'm not sure. For the first time in so long, I just don't know.
That scares me, but it thrills me too. Not knowing. Of only one thing am I certain--Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
And so I come, Jesus, wondering if it was all for naught, for guilt, to try to wash away a stain already purchased with Your blood. If it was that, You were gracious to give so many mercies along the way.
Why is the still whisper so easily drowned by the brash shout? Why did I sell myself, all that was, for what is not bread, for what cannot fill? I thought it would. That my cracks would be satisfied, filed smooth. That I wouldn't go about bleeding, looking needy and crazy. I just wanted to live with my shirt buttoned for once, with my pants on the right side.
It ain't meant to be.
And so give me the courage Jesus to dig through all this off-shade foundation and crusted over papier mache. Give me strength to pry off the lacquer and heart polish, to wipe the vaseline off my teeth and stop smiling. 'Cause it ain't all right. It might not ever be. But I've got to dig her up any way, that crazy woman in there I've been hiding, thinking that entombing her would be enough, that hiding her would be sufficient.
It wasn't. I must go all the way down to the egg, eat the shell and pull her out, rub her wings. I'll let her fly today, one good long trip, over the mountains, through the valleys, over everything so she can see what she missed. That girl's been in there a long time.
I'll let her fly all over, give her a good dinner. I'll wait until tomorrow to tell her she has to die.
At least that's what I'm hoping.