Tuesday, March 29, 2005

May It Be Done According To Your Will

Fear not,
but tell no one.

You are now
a bearer of the holy.

Sit, pondering
Mystery.

There is no shadow
in My Light,
hovering
above the face
of your womb waters.

Nest.
Prepare a place
for Me.

I Am in the circle
stretching your flesh.
lay your hands
on Me.

Warm the space
between us.

There are miracles
demanding to be told,
and miracles
that beg you

tell no one.

Fear not.
I dwell in the quiet.

Give birth to Me,
My fruit shall surely
remain.

Monday, March 21, 2005

In just-SPRING!

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's
spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

it's
spring
and
the

goat-footed

balloonMan whistles
far
and
wee

e.e. cummings
I survived 'til spring. Hallelujah. Off to do a little puddle jumping and hopscotching in the SNOW!!!!!

But still...

Thank you, Jesus.

Dreaming of Resurrection, lilac blossoms, dandelions, jelly beans, Easter baskets, and the Honey Baked I can't afford.

Happy Spring.
Rejoice!
raga

Friday, March 18, 2005

Larry Tastes Freedom

I picked up the girls from school, and Nia asked how ferrets are as pets. Ever the realist I said, "I've never had one, but I heard they're kind of crazy."

Nia, at age 8, is a realist too, possessing many of her mother's excessess and sensitivities. She replied, "That's bad. You know what happed the last time."

"What happened the last time we had a ferret?" This confused me. We never had a ferret.

"No, the last time we had a crazy you-know-what."

I did know. She meant the mouse. What was his name?

As if she could read minds, she said, "Larry."

"What were the other's names?" I said, for no good reason.

"Sugar, Jerry and Larry," she said. "We got Larry after Jerry died."

Aziza winced when she said, "Jerry died," and made a high pitched, whiny sound. I guess I don't have to mention who was responsible for his untimely passing.

Larry. I knew he was a go-getter when the guy at the petshop had trouble catching him. He was just a white common feeder mouse, used for snake food. I got him because Jerry was resting and receiving his eternal reward, and he was cheap and all I could afford was a two dollar pet.

Larry settled in, but seemed to spend more time exercising on the wheel than his more sedate companion did. It was if he knew freedom was coming.

Finally, freedom set Larry free. He escaped, and went on with his life. He got to hanging around with the wrong mice, and ended up getting snapped up in the mouse trap we reserved for mice we did NOT buy at the pet store. We caught him a few days later, skulking around the dryer, and dragging the trap behind him.

His tail was torn something awful. The men in our house didn't think he'd live. Ken decided to do surgery on him. They severed the wounded tail and cauterized the wound. Larry didn't not appreciate their ministrations. I was told of this only after the fact. Ken and the kids gathered around me.

"We had to do surgery on the mouse."

I act as house mother. My family sees me as something of a cross between a warden, British school mistress, and patron saint. They make these kind of horrifying announcements as a group, wanting penance, and a stern rebuke.

"You did what?" I bellowed with a condemning edge to my tone.

"We had too." Only Ken spoke, but always as we. "He would have died otherwise."

"You did what??"

"We cut if off, and burned the end. But we put a bandaid on it."

"You did what???"

"Mouse surgery."

"Who authorized you to do Mouse surgery? Are you a veterinarian, Ken? Are you trained and board certified to practice medicine on mice? Are you crazy???"

They peered at me with 7 pairs of puppy eyes. Instead of giving them Ava Marias, I warned them never to do medical procedures on animals, and sent them on their way.

But poor Larry was a different mouse after tasting freedom (and that awful surgery). He got a little crazy. He brooded as he healed. He sang and moaned mouse freedom songs, and played the harmonica. He grew angry and aggressive. He ran his little tin mouse cup against the railing shouting, "NOOOOOOOOO." He stayed up until all hours of the night with Sugar, smoking cigarettes and reading books we didn't approve of.

It wasn't long before he escaped again, and each time, he became more ruthless. Freedom was too sweet to give up. Before he'd be a slave, he'd be dead inside his grave (those songs grow on you). In the end, he got out and we never caught him again.

We'd see him now and then, and he didn't seem to have hard feelings. His pink eyes would shine at us, and he give his pale white tail a little twist in greeting. I hope it was a greeting! I think he recognized that we were just trying to get the kids a pet. It was better than being snake food, but it wasn't freedom. He forgave us. He started running around with a little brunette, and they had themselves a brood of brown and white babies. He's happy now. We left lots of food on the floor, so he could feed his family. We owed him that.

We set Sugar free, but he didn't have the guts Larry had. He didn't make it free.

Isn't freedom an incredible thing. And it takes so much responsibility. Jesus is our liberator, our surgeon, and our provider. When He sets us free, we are free indeed.

Will we live like Larry? Cherishing liberty, and making the most of it?

Or will we live like Sugar, afraid, and wasting away without a whimper?

In love and liberty,
rags

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Naked Pregnant Woman In Your Yard

I was talking with my husband this morning. We were watching one of the morning talk shows drone on. This one about abused women. The poor souls seem to be everywhere in the media this week.

It is not uncommon for me to rail accusations at the television, hissing and booing my contempt for batterers at my safe little television. I don't think too hard on the mournful ghost faces of the women--their bowed backs, their dead eyes, shining with tears.

I was one of those women--a person who let such horrible things happen to me that I can't bear to think of them now. I was chatting with a friend today, and somehow the time I spent watching TV with Ken came into the conversation, and with it, a memory with startling clarity.

I am twenty seven years old. A mother of one son. I am still pretty, if you can look beyond the haggard appearance being constantly physically, psychologically and sexually abused imposes on your body.

We'd argued, and he had grown fond of a particularly cruel indignation. He would force me to strip, and toss me out of the house naked. I remember the quiet resignation and dead affect when unbuttoning my dress and stepping out of my underwear. My body was ripe with his child, the belly round as a peach, the hips flaring out wide in expectation. I should have been his joy, an his reward, but I was the object of his hate, a constant reminder that life did not go his way, and he was forced to keep me for appearances sake.

He'd grab me by the arm, and shove me out the door, slamming it shut and bolting the locks. I would stand there, bewildered, almost high. Blocking out the reality so that I could endure it. I never felt the horror of it while it was happening. I simply asked my self, what do I do?

I wandered in this deadening daze across the street, glad that no cars were coming by. It is very difficult to cover yourself with bony arms and small, girlish hands when you weigh all of 110 lbs fully pregnant. A man came out of his house shocked to find me in his yard.

He was tall, and young and handsome. Brown and sunloved, and when he spoke I heard his Island accent. He came to me, with his arms streched out like he wanted to cover me with his arms, but he didn't. It was as if he were afraid to touch me. Like I would break. Like I would shatter in his hands.

He spoke tenderly with his soft, lilting voice, but his questions were rapid fire. What has happened? Who did this to you? And I answered him--the truth. I saw the disbelief and horror in his eyes. He could not comprehend the kind of cruelty that throws a pregnant young woman naked into the streets. I could not either, but for a moment, I was outside of myself. That wasn't me naked and pregnant, explaining to a kind stranger. He told me he would call the police, and I begged him not to, fearing the man I lived with would kill me if I ever got the law involved. I was in Maryland, far from home and people who loved me, and he had my son in the house.

The man went inside, and came out with a bathrobe to cover me. He told me he called the police. You know what? I can't remember what happened after that. I don't remember if I ever saw the police, or when I went home, or if I ever returned the bathroom. It's gone. The rest of that story hides in some dark corner in my mind and refuses to reveal itself to me.

These memories, they come like a distant discordant tune. Strange music that I don't understand. I hear the melody, but don't remember the name of the song. I don't hear it often, not even when I watch talk shows. Somewhere she stopped being me.

I wonder if that man prayed for me. I think he did. I sure hope so.

Listen, if you ever find a naked pregnant woman in your yard, please, I beg you, cover her. Call the police, pray for her.

Remember her, many years later, when she is 4o and loved, and the mother of seven. Because sometimes, when she leasts expects it, she will find herself unable to stop crying while she types on her laptop computer. Mourning the woman she was. The woman she had no strength to mourn back then.

And say another prayer for her.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Come Naked.

There's a lot of talk around the blogsphere about "authentic" faith. It's as if being real and honest are rare jewels that have to be mined carefully and painfully. Maybe they are rare, and even difficult to access, but that is so sad.

If anything at all you'd think the Christian life would be real. It's clear from the gospels that Jesus despised hypocrisy. Imagine if the religious leaders He criticized so harshly actually came to Him with some honesty, like:

"We suck, and wouldn't know the Messiah if He were standing right in front of us." Or "Have mercy on us, you seem to have it together a lot more than we do." They would have been blessed instead of rebuked. They would have gotten a revelation of the Truth that stood before them in the person of Jesus Christ.

I remember when I hid behind the thin veneer of my own mask. The mouth on it was fashioned into a permanent smile. That mouth couldn't ask hard questions--questions that I still don't have answers for. It wasn't warm, round, fleshy and flawed like my own face. It was perfect and elegant, and cold. I like my own face better, even though it crumbles awash in tears at times.

Masks don't really help, no matter how religious they are. They don't stop you from hurting and bleeding, and they muffle the sound of your screams. There's no value in dishonesty with God. First, He already knows about what you're so valiantly trying to hide, and He loves you. Living a lie only separates you from perfect love--and that's what His love is. It has to be perfect to be able to love us. We are so terribly broken.

Let's just get real, and watch the magnificent things God does.

I keep thinking about a quote I read in Len Sweet's book "Soul Salsa":

"How can we defend our poor privacy while the Lord of Glory is exposed naked on the cross for all the world to see?"

Maria Teresa Porcile

Jesus is always the first example. The perfect picture. Can you imagine his torn flesh, hanging on a criminal's cross? There isn't anything more open than that. He showed us all of himself, so that we can reveal our darkest inclinations to Him, and to each other.

Let us come naked before him, gazing on the cross whenever we are tempted to hide what is real behind a lie that makes an idol of our religious ideal self.

At the foot of that cross,
Rags

Friday, March 11, 2005

How I Became A Christian Writer

It was only last year that I stole a copy of Today's Christian Woman from the waiting room at the University of Michigan Hospital. I remember taking the magazine home. I read every article, ad, and book review. Finally, I ending up clutching it near my heart, filled with such an aching longing, and praying, "Lord, I want to write for you."

I didn't think it were possible. Not only did I steal a magazine, (I repented and replaced it) I didn't fit the profile. Those smiling women on the cover, perfect virtuous wives of pastors of the little church on the hill, were worlds apart from me. I couldn't imagine their struggles to be mine. I am messy. I am hurting. I am black. I am poor.

I sat in my bedroom one day, and said, forget it. I'm going to write for Jesus anyway. I didn't want to try to be something that I'm not. I'd come honest and empty, and hopefully someone out there would hear, and they'd come honest and empty, until we were all filled in those gaping places with the Kingdom of God.

I started Ragamuffin Diva right after that. It was anonymous, so I couldn't get any fame from it. It didn't pay any money, and I had no editor to help me polish my "pieces" and encourage me to be a good girl, and don't say bad words or talk about things that will make people uncomfortable.

My little blog ended up creating opportunities for me that went beyond my wildest dreams. Last night, one of the ungrateful raga spawns I call my kids had the nerve to suggest that I get a job. Ken immediately defended my honor by saying, "she has a job."

We all grew silent, especially me, trying to figure out what he was talking about. Then it dawned on me. He means writing. He means my job is as a writer. I couldn't believe it, how did that happen?

But it's true. I don't have any money, but I did earn 10 bucks for a poem lately. I've gotten free books--and I love books, just for coming here. And I've made friends. Thank you, Jesus.

Recently, I've been under consideration at some major houses, and even got blessed with a sweet teddy bear of a man who is my agent. All in less than a year.

I've been really anxious about committees and ladies with alligator purses, but some friends of mine have reminded me how far I've come. When I was finishing my bachelors degree--the only person in my family to do so, I was so obsessed with how I would get my masters that I forgot to take the time to enjoy what I'd just accomplished.

So I am breathing. I am saying, "Lord, thank you." He's made me a Christian writer in spite of myself, and I think I'll take a minute to enjoy the journey.

Isn't it grand to look up and find you've gotten your heart's desire?

Feeling grateful,
raga

Monday, March 07, 2005

Sales Event

A few days ago I got a sale event brochure in the mail from a Famous Christian Store. I like sales events and catalogs. I shamelessly relish my CBD catalog, every single issue of it, and this FCS catalog is just as fun.

What a great time we live in. The disciples had direct contact with Jesus, and we have Jesus junk. Here are some memorable items I saw.

There's a cross with beads wrapped around it on wire. I like crosses. I like beads. However, the wire wrap managed to create an unsettling product. Are crosses supposed to be pretty--though that would be a very generous description of this particular one. Once I had a little rhinestone cross that didn't work for me because, duh, is the cross supposed to be bling, bling? But that's just me. Call me crazy.

There's a t-shirt that says "He died for me. I live for Him." You gotta love that. It's simple, and has a nice little twist with the contrast. Isn't wearing the t-shirt so much more convenient that being salt and light? I think so.

For people of deep prayer, there is The Jelly Bean Prayer. I couldn't read the prayer from the photo, but I'm certain that if it's anything short of the Lord's Prayer itself, I'd be utterly appalled by it just the same--even if it did come with jelly beans. There's a slogan that I could read on the package. "Scripture Candy: Reaching the world one piece at a time." Take heart emergent Christians, always harping about having relationships. Pass out these jelly beans, and let them do the work!

Max Lucado has come out with another book. I think a new one releases EVERY TWO HOURS!!!!

We should have an award for shameless market saturation. Maybe we can call it, The Pukey! And the award goes to:

Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins for writing a prequel to the apparently endless series "Left Behind." Stay Tuned for the next in the series. Find out what our beloved Rayford and Buck will do during the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth.

The runner up:

Bruce Wilkinson for Beyond Jabez: Expanding Your Borders.
Hey, thanks Bruce, but our borders got pretty big the first time around. And so did yours.

Finally, my personal favorite product was the children's must have:

The Children's Discovery Bible, complete with a Jesus action figure with MOVEABLE PARTS!!!!!!

I don't know about your kids, but my testosterone driven male children would not use their Jesus action figure with moveable parts to heal the sick or break bread. They'd use their Jesus to break heads! Pow! Bam! Crack! Their little plastic Jesus would have more moves than ex-lax. Every Bible re-enactment they played out would be Jesus driving out money changers, Jesus giving demons a smack down, Jesus giving Judas what he deserves!

But that's just my heathen children. I'm sure your kids would be fine.

What are YOUR favorite products?

Disclaimer: the views of the blogger known as ragamuffin diva do not reflect the opinions of anyone but herself. It's also rumored that she has bipolar disorder. Heck, I wonder if she's even saved! She doesn't have any money either, so don't even think about suing her.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Literary Detox

I've avoided coming here for days because I've been battling my addiction. I really need an AA program: Authors Anonymous.

My life has become unmanageable because of writing, and it's not just writing, the physcial and cerebral--the emotional and the spiritual act, it's what writing does to others. I crave that "It was beautiful. It was lovely. It's exactly how I feel."

I hate this about me.

And that book. I now refer to it as that @#&!$# book. It's torturing me. Day and night, I claw the walls wondering. Will it sell? Will he (the editor) like it? What if he likes it but the committee doesn't like it? What if he and the committee like it but the marketing and sales department don't like it? What if he and the committee and marketing and sales department like it, and they buy it, and the lady with the alligator purse doesn't like it?

And my agent. What if the poor man really sees that nobody, especially the lady with the alligator purse, likes my writing? And then he won't keep me, and I'll DIE!!!!! I'll waste away, and be found clutching my unliked, unsold manuscript in my dead, cold, bony fingers, next to my dead, cold, bony ribs.

You see what I mean. I try to think of something else. I try to work on something else. I try to pray and IT JUST KEEPS COMING UP!!! THAT @#&!$# book. I hate that book, but...

I love that @#&!$# book. I wouldn't be actin' a fool if I didn't love it. I'm having physical withdrawal symptoms because the editor and agent have the book and I can't control what they think or will do.

Waaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!

Okay. I'm okay. The first step is admitting it, right? No matter that my response to my misery is to come here and write. I'm admitting it.

And I'm afraid to let it go. Not just the @#&!$# book, but what it is that deep, deep down I really want. I write because it can be fun, cathartic, freeing, and I'd like to think I'm even a little bit good at it, but you know what, I use it, because in the end, I write because I want to be loved, and I don't want you to forget about me.

Ouch! That really hurt to say.

I would have taken this whole thing down, cold turkey. You just look up one day, and there's no more ragamuffin diva, just a message that says blogger not found. But God says this doesn't belong to me, it belongs to him, and like all addictions, they have to be dealt with with grace, and humility, and letting go of what you think you need to do to fix it.

Somethings you just can't fix. Addictions, quite often, is one of them. I'll take the hand of grace over my own works, and the lies I could tell myself as I force the need--not for the work, but for the love, down down down until it's just a low murmur. And you know how repression is, the addiction--the desire is still there, and bound to come up in the most untimely, embarrassing ways. Like this heathen, wretched blog entry.

So, here God. For the thousanth, thousanth time, take this, and give me grace and a bit of your peace. Help me to let go of what the editors, and committees, and ladies with alligator purses will say, and let me find you in the empty space it leaves behind. Turn my desert into a garden, show me Your love, and let me know that I don't need these words like I need You.

In Jesus' name, Amen.

Now, I must go. I'll see you when I'm not strung out anymore. Don't forget that I love you. As much as an addict can.

Say a little prayer for me. Okay?