Thursday, November 23, 2006

i thank you God

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of allnothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

by e.e. cummings

I learned this poem many, many years ago, and it's gentle rhythms remain with me. The words dance, don't they? My heart is dancing this year, too.

On this lovely Thanksgiving day, I thank you God for most...

perfect Thanksgiving Day weather...

being able to cook all that food with no pain, and no medication...

for friends with screaming emails, who send presents when you are down, and when you are up...

for freak flag makers who help your friends when they need to fly one...

for my hot pink Christmas tree with fuzzy yellow and blue ornaments and a green glitter star...

for friends who love books, and for friends who write them...

for friends who don't write books at all...

for Lori Rey's smile which I miss...

for my little girls standing in my the kitchen while I cook...

for Vanessa Williams and Bobby Caldwell singing "Baby it's cold outside," and for the first holiday dance with Ken. He always dips me, and he's light on his feet!

for "It's a Wonderful Life", still the most magical movie ever, and it opens in prayer!

for knowing exactly two other people who make oyster dressing...

for corn pudding, even though nobody eats it but me...

for not being afraid of winter...

for a new home for ABB...

for God opening a door for me to move to Northern California, or Central Florida!!!!

for Jesus redeeming the day, even though I haven't forgotten about the small pox blankets...

for the happiness God will give Evette, just because He loves her...

for Betty who I've met, and Brennan who I will... one day...

for what I imagine Terry ate today...

for Chip's new home...

for my sister Philis, always...

for the University of Michigan football team, my beloved Wolverines, who are going to kick that Buckeye you-know-what next year!

for a family that amazes me with their grace...

for a fine man luring me away from the computer and back into life where we'll eat too much, talk to loud, love too hard, and dance to baby it's cold outside while the kids trim the green tree that he can tolerate. It doesn't have fuzzy ornaments.

And for YOU!

Happy Thanksgiving,
Mair

Saturday, November 18, 2006

God Speaks

A few months ago I had a very difficult time physically. I'd had a very mystical dream, and immediately my body seemed to be plunged into the dark night of the body. My soul didn't feel so great either.

A beloved friend prayed for my healing at this time. I think she wanted to know why God wasn't rushing to heal me. If I'm not mistaken, she thinks He's sweet on me, and she probably wondered what was up with all that terrible suffering.

God told her He had Mair in His hands.

I knew He did because despite the pain He gave me many, many gifts of grace. Jesus asks His children to buy from Him gold tried in the refiners fire. I think I know how you pay for that now. Anyway, during this time she and I IM'd and emailed each other, and one evening she told me about a book that she reads every night. She said it speaks to her so deeply, that it's like having Jesus be the last voice she hears before she goes to bed. I was jealous. I want Jesus' voice to be the last one I hear before I go to bed, too! And so I bought that book. It's called, God Calling.

God Calling is much like some books I loved, the diaries of Nicole Gausseron. Ironically, a beloved friend sent me Nicole's books when I was very physically ill. She said she'd send me some "vitamins". I got a package of all three diaries wrapped in a bag from The Limited. You have to know this very special pumpkin to love her! And my, my, she is one of my special ones. I devoured my vitamins, and then made Carlean read them. Poor Carlean. She has to read all the books I fall in love with, but don't feel sorry for her. Because of Carlean I have a Jewish Tallit!

But I digress. Nicole's books are about a very deep relationship with God where she simply sits in adoration--something amazing that Catholics do that I also am jealous of. In my horrid perception of Catholic theology, I'll say that sitting in adoration is sitting in the presence of the Eucharist, which they believe to be--as do we Orthodox--the mystical body of Christ. Someone is to sit with Christ, just adoring Him, at all times, 24/7. This was a favorite activity of Nicole's. When Jesus would say something to her, since she was hanging around anyway, she write what He said in a little notebook.

God Calling is a book that came about when a retired teacher asked her friend, another retired teacher, "Does God still speak to people?" Since they were poor, and sick, and retired, and didn't have much else to do, the other said, "Why don't we see." They met for prayer and Bible reading, and then a period of listening. They did this for 29 days with nary a word from God. On the thirtieth day, while listening, they both begin to write at the same time. They wrote the exact same words.

Insert Twilight Zone music here.

These weren't tripped out wanna-be-mystics into "automatic writing". This had nothing to do with channeling. They were a couple of retired, teachers who needed to know if God was still around because they were suffering. And He was.

For the next 365 days the women, the two listeners, wrote the exact same words, at the same time, during the listening time. Amazing! When both ladies had died, they willed that the work be sent to a man named A.J. Russell, the editor of a hot, London newspaper. He sent it to every good theologian he could drum up, and when all said they found nothing outside of orthodoxy, he published the book and called it God Calling. The names of the teachers were never revealed in the book. They remain to this day, "two listeners."

I can't tell you what this book means to me. It's a constant companion. I've given away copies of it already, and I'm certain that the people I shared it with will share it. I found a wonderful resource, a website dedicated to the book. You can find it here.

You can read along every day, and on the homepage you can even subscribe for the messages to come to your email daily, but buy the book. Nothing like a book.

In the testimonial section of the site a man urged readers to see if your birthday doesn't speak to you. I did this. Not only was it spot on something that I'd probably need to deal with for the rest of my life, it is practically instructions on how to deal with something God is asking me to do.

Here's what it says:

September 1 - It Is Enough

Listen and I will speak.

I seldom force an entrance through many voices and distracting thoughts. There must be first the coming apart and then the stilling of all else as you wait in My Presence. Is it not enough that you are with Me?

Let that sometimes suffice.

It is truly much that I speak to you. But unless My Indwelling Spirit is yours, how can you carry out My wishes and live as I would have you live?


Amen!
Amen!
Amen!

I hope you go to the link and hang out with Jesus. I'm pretty sure He'll chat you up. It's hard to miss Him in God Calling.

Be blessed. And just for fun, this my favorite poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, from his Book of Hours, Love Poems to God. The translation is by Burrows and Macy.


God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by it's seriousness.

Give me your hand.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Night Watch

3 am. Pain wakes me from my sleep. I've slowly weaned myself off of the most toxic of the medications, and I feel it. I feel so stiff I don't want to move. The pain burns. Even sleep isn't a refuge any more.

The boy is sick. Kamau sounds like his lungs are going to come right out of his mouth. My poor boy. A good boy. He's always been the sick one.

I go to him with an expectorant, and still he isn't wellan hour later. I put the vaporizor in his room, with Vick vapors! I think about Mrs. Valiant.

She's a character in Hinds Feet. The first time we see her, she is rescuing Much Afraid after her cousin's have ambushed her. Her family wants her to marry her cousin Craven Fear, but of course, she loves The Shepherd.

Mrs. Valiant comes in and powerfully dispels all those Fearings who'd suffocated Much Afraid until she was incapacitated. She calls them a pack of idle Fears, who knows the Shepherd owns that cottage Much Afraid lives in. A wonderful scene.

I had to be Mrs. Valiant tonight. I guess the devil didn't like me talking to Betty, a Mrs. Valiant if there ever were one. Tonight after screaming with the girl, the big one, I had to leave the house. That's how much she frustrated me. Ken tried to calm me, but I needed air! I took a walk, and decided to send whatever the devil had dished out right back to him. I walked in the rain. In the night. Casting out devils, and talking to Jesus. Sometimes you have to be Mrs. Valiant, and not allow the devil to beat up your family, keep your kids sick. Sometimes you have to understand that the Kingdom allows violence, and the righteous take it by force.

I had to go lay hands on the boy, and command the devil to loose his health. He is going to get better. I asked God to give his suffering to me.

Instead of turning on the television, I kept the Night Watch. I'd gotten Phyllis Tickle's book The Night Offices. I highly recommend it to all insomniacs. I wish I had kept watch instead of prowled my inner landscape so many nights, because the Night Watch is powerful. It's comforting. It may have been my peace.

I take an antidepressant. I was afraid for the Night. And it's helped, but just a little. A part of me is Much Afraid. The Fearings come and tell me that I'll go insane. They tell me I'll kill myself. And the Shepherd is saying, "Let me take you to the Kingdom."

I don't think that means I'll die this winter--not physically, but something is going to die this winter. What it will be in me only the Shepherd knows. I'm so glad to have this powerful comfort in the night. Phyllis made it easy for me to keep watch tonight, praying when others sleep.

4:37 as I type these words. The boy now sleeps peacefully. The house is quiet except for the soft singular breath of my laptop, and the rain falling against the house.

All is well.

"I say unto you all, watch and pray."

From the Final Petition, Night Watch, Thursday in November:

"Now guide me waking O Lord, and guard me sleeping; that awake I may watch with Christ, and asleep, I may rest in peace."

Amen

Coming soon (I hope), Phyllis Tickle to Ragamuffin Diva.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Quiet Retreat Day 2

Okay, so I'm weak. I'm so online. And I didn't actually leave my house for quiet retreat. I mean, I LIVE in my bed, and the lack of the homicidal spring makes it so much more comforting. The room is painted cinnamon diamonds, which is a lovely way of saying PINK. I tried to trick Ken into thinking this place is cinnamon diamonds, but he's a visual artist, and was so on to me. I also tried to psych him out into thinking the comforter is brown and "blush." Are you seeing a theme here? So here I am in my cozy room, trying to meet with Jesus.

Mind you, Jesus doesn't go anywhere, and He talks to me all the time. And I wanted to be very holy and repentant but for the most part I spent yesterday being unfocused and tired. Reading bits of books and watching copious amounts of Law and Order. Law and Order seems to come on television ALL THE TIME.

I also checked email several times, and even answered a few. But I refused to do any work related to my career as a writer. When my disappointment with my lack of spirituality reached it's peak, I decided to just "holy loiter." Brennan Manning taught me that, and by the way, WILL SOMEBODY! ANYBODY! INTRODUCE ME TO BRENNAN! I love him. He's my hero and spiritual papa and it would just be a shame if I never got to have at least one phone conversation with him. Now, I know a lot of you lurkers who never comment know him. You've got his number. You may have had dinner with him a number of times. I just want to talk for maybe 20 minutes. And that's it. You can quietly slip it into my email at claudia.mair.burney@gmail.com. That is, after you've given him the heads up.

But I digress.

So, I spent my day just hanging around Jesus, watching Law and Order, and reading Hinds Feet and High Places, The Hidden Life, and Goodbye Jeanie. I had a few really delightful sneaky moments with Jesus reading Hinds Feet, and I'm grateful for the way He shows up and delights me. I've been trying to reach Betty Skinner (author of the Hidden Life, about her journey through depression) by phone for MONTHS and we kept missing each other. I think it was because I wasn't ready for our conversation, but sneaky Jesus, over the last few days, has been speaking one word consistently to me. Can you guess it? Go ahead and try...

I'm waiting...

Nope. That's not it.

That either.

No, beloved. Okay, some of you guessed it, but a lot of you missed it. The magic word was "suffering". I so didn't want that word. But it seemed to miraculously appear in every book I picked up. I tried to read Divine Revelations of Love by Julian of Norwich and it was going great until chapter three when she started in on embracing physical suffering.

Embracing???

Now, I suffer physically. I do NOT embrace it, even if it seems contrary to what you think you know of me.

And on just the day that I say, okay, maybe I'm blunting my growth with cocktails of medications, none of which are helping me feel significant relief from pain or depression. I'm on megadoses of stuff you wouldn't believe! Doses that boggle the mind. The doctors tell me I'm "treatment resistant." How fun.

I joked with a friend having a bad day that I wanted to have dinner with Jesus at a good French Restuarant. I'll have what He's having. Ha! But then I thought of it, and dang. With my luck when we dined that particular day He'd order a glass of water and a BIG CROSS. Really big.

Sigh.

I'll have what He's having.

Which brings me back to my resistance of embracing suffering. Mind you, God has sent dreams, messages to my friends to not worry about why He hasn't healed me. Books. And other "coinkydinks". And still I held on, even though I suffered the entire time. So finally, as Jesus and I watched the entire early morning line-up of largely occultic shows on TNT and reading as much as my tired head will hold, I read in Good Bye Jeanie a line that says something to the effect of, simply, "God is up to something good."

I've been thinking about my body, how I've neglected it for the land of my interior landscape, and while Jesus lovingly meets me there, He's let me know I'm completely unbalanced, and He has to draw me back, slowly, into the world and my body. So, I said yes, but I didn't feel strong. I was ready to go to sleep. I felt so sleepy, but I had left a message with Betty (again)last night that I'd call her today at 11:00 am. I decided to call her at 10, hoping she'd be around so I could rest after I talked to her.

That was a laugh. I think it was completely God's providence that she and I met when we did. The person who introduced us, who I am hoping will take the hint and now introduce me to you-know-who, is excellent at putting great people in my life. She's also great for conversation, especially if you are loquacious, and there is no one on earth I like to share a meal with more. Thank you, friend.

From the start Betty and I began as if we've known each other for a very long time, and needed a visit to catch up. She confirmed things Jesus had already told me. And I was happy, having been so interior, that someone outside of me could see it. Someone who I didn't "know" so to speak. And couldn't tell myself they said that because they're my friend. I told her that I felt like my body is a toxic waste dump with all my useless medications, and she says it is, and it's killing you.

She didn't mince words did she.

I'm an advocate for medication. But Jesus is saying something to me. I won't reveal whether or not I'm going to go off of them at this time because I don't want to effect anyone's decision, either way. I'm just sharing that Jesus wants to do something, and I'm willing to let Him. What it is is going to involve a cross of suffering. And nothing will spare me. Nothing has spared me as it is. I don't know what this journey will look like. Maybe it will kill me. I have never forgotten what my sister in Christ Dr. Carla said. "When Jesus calls me the first time, I want to go."

Woooo! That's spooky. God calling me to suffer? Spooky. Lately I've been thinking of how Jesus told the Laodecian church in Revelation to buy from him gold refined in the fire. I wondered why he said "buy" it. I think it's because gold will cost you. You have to suffer to get it. You have to die. Betty said you have the ego has to die, and it takes a long time. She's 81 years old. She knows from whence she speaks.

So I'm going where God Calls. I don't know how much I can tell you about, but I'm sure since this is a major part of my calling, He'll let me put some of it down for you. I always want your prayers. But right now, I'm going to pray a frightening prayer for you.

"Lord, watch over my friends. Show them how much you love them. Teach them that even if you ask them to suffer for You, they will reign with You in exchange. You are up to something good. Sweeten the hard times, and all their companions pain and suffering will bring with grace, and above all, help us to love one another. Deliver us from evil, within and without. Do your will. We will trust you. Help us. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

And here's a bit of Jesus praying for you:

"I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world. Holy Father! Keep them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one, just as you and I are one." John 17:11

Now, I'm taking the important baby step of stepping out into the fresh air. Moving my limbs, stepping out of my inner world and Bell Brown's world, and back into life. Cross and all. Just baby steps, but it's a start.

Wish me well.

Mair

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Good Monsters

"Not all monsters are bad, but the ones who are good
never do what they could, never do what they could

All the good monsters rattle their chains,
And dance around the open flames,
and they make a lot of empty noise.

While all of the bright eyes turn away,
As if there wasn't anything to say,
About the justice and the mystery.
Do you know what you are?
Do you know what you are?

And we are bored of all the things we know
And we are forms of everything we love, we love.

If good won't show it's ugly face, evil won't you take your place
nothing ever changes, nothing ever changes... by itself."

Jars of Clay, Good Monsters, 2006

"The song Good Monsters sort of is a different way of saying a famous Edmond Burke quote, “The only necessary thing for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” Dan Haseltine

Saturday morning my dream revealed that I think of myself as a "good monster". Sometimes. Maybe a lot of times I'm just a monster, and sometimes I'm a bad monster. The human condition is paradoxical. We are made in the image and likeness of God. We are veritable eikons of Him.

We are born in sin. Some think that means we got dealt the bad hand--thanks papa Adam--and we start off our existence that way. Others believe we crash into this fallen world of sin and collect our evil like lint on a cheap sweater.

Do you know what you are?

This has been a grueling week. I've chewed on the root of bitterness off and on. When you first taste it it's horrible, and then it turns sweet. And then it gives you a heady high. Turns bitter again. Makes you sick. And if you partake for long, it will kill you. And let me tell you, it's got quite the nasty after-taste.

Paul said, "Be angry, but sin not." I think I need the manual on how to do that. I'd feel better, and then the root would call me again for another taste. And I'd partake, chewing and chewing until I felt so bloated with rage that I waddled drunken out of Love.

And then I considered Jesus. All Good. Not a whit of monster in Him. He got angry. When I see His anger in scripture it appears to be a flash of righteous indignation firing brilliant, hot, and high, then fading, leaving His scent sweetening the air like incense. Jesus. Love incarnate got angry, but He did not sin.

I sinned. I stepped past righteous indignation and spit venom and meaness at my friends who's love would catch it, and send it back to hell. I raged to them so that they would keep me safe, and so that I would not rage to the person who I felt violated me. Someone I trusted. Wounded in the house of my good, Christian friends.

Lord, have mercy.

So, what's a good monster to do? My humanity demands some kind of release. Anger never stays put. It will explode, or implode, sometimes slowly, poisoning all your organs and you realize this thing will, or has killed you. Some don't realize it, and take their anger with them to hell.

If you could say one thing that identifies you as a Christian what would it be? I know exactly what my one thing would be. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another." (John 13:34)

How do you love?

Maybe the best of us really are good monsters, our empty chains clinking strange music, while we regurgitate our empty God talk, dancing in a frenzy, bumping and stumbling into one another, not really meaning to hurt each other at all. And maybe sometimes we do mean it. Monsters. Maybe we wish that fire we dance around would burn inside of us, and are maddened when it doesn't.

A wise mother told me that I can always gauge my spiritual temperature by how much I love other people. I'm not on the mission field. I'm pretty much stuck in the house, spending a lot of time aching in my bed. These empty words I spout between my dance moves is all I really have to offer Jesus. If I use those same words to hurt, then I need to go back to Jesus for a hearty infusion of Him, praying just as He instructed His good monsters to:

"Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."
"Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."
"Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us."

Forgive me, Jesus. I forgive those who hurt me. At least I'm trying to. Help me. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.
Amen.
Amen.

And hey, if you received my venom, forgive me. Will you pray for me? And thank you, good monster, for the dance. I feel the fire, a little. Do you?

Mair

P.S. I'm taking a break for some much needed rest and reflection. I need Jesus. I don't come here regularly anyway, but I'll be completely offline for a few days. I love you, as much as a good monster can.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

After the Dream

I woke up screaming. I woke Ken up, too. His tender, caring response, startled from his own sleep was, "What the hell was that?"

"I screamed. I must have had a nightmare."

Ken went right back to sleep.

I lie there willing my heart to calm. Cold, shivering beneath my comforter. I have to pee, but it's that weird time after a nightmare and I wish I didn't have to move.

Jesus comes to me. He wants to play. I don't want to play with Jesus. As it is I feel like a crazy woman. But His sweet voice, His kindness calls to me, engages me. Plus, He knows I have to pee and am going to get up. He has so many advantages being God.

I get up and fumble for my gown in the dark, slip it on, and pad down the hall to the bathroom. He's saying so much to me and I can't deny Him. I don't want to meet Him in our trysting place. It's a weird trysting place, but He's insistent.

"Meet me there," He says like a needy Lover.

I give Him all the reasons I shouldn't. I think it's scary there, but He tells me I know it's not. I think I made the whole thing up and I'm psychotic. And He tells me I know that's not true either. But what's true is hard to discern right now. And I'm so tired.

But I love Him. He's a sweet, gentle Lover, even though I know He's done things I will never understand in this life, and maybe not the other. I'm almost flattered that He wants me so badly. He keeps talking to me, even before I show up, and I love Him a little more for that.

I go there. To where we meet. Where we make love and He devastates me with His beauty. He smiles at me when I get there. Takes me by the hand.

I want to say, "I made this up." But His eyes dispel that untruth. "It's our place," He said. I drew you here, and it's my favorite place to be with you."

I want to tell Him that I made it all up, and I'm a nut job, but He catches the idea in my thoughts and disgards it. So I decide not to argue with Him. Just be with Him.

"Tell me about the dream," He says. He's so not sly. He knows I know He's omnipotent and omnipresent and is completely aware of the dream, but He wants me to say it.

"I was some kind of monster," I say and I hang my head down.

He acts like this is curious to Him. "Hmmmm," He says. "A monster?"

"It was like we were all monsters, and some of us were more powerful than others. If you used your powers you got stronger, and some monsters were good, and some were bad."

He sits across from me at a table. He's got on a nice white shirt that looks almost like a poets shirt, but it looks good on him. Khaki pants. He needs a haircut but I like the way his brown hair falls into his face. He's beautiful.

"You don't really look like this, you know."

"I know how I look. But you like this face."

"Jesus my handsome boyfriend."

"I like looking this way for you. And make that Jesus my handsome Lover."

"I stand corrected," I say but I grin at Him. We love this banter. This love talk. He comes over to me and touches my face and I close my eyes and let His coarse fingers caress me. You can tell He was a carpenter. I marvel that He kept the rough hands that touch so tenderly, and the nail holes."

Again I want to say, "I just made this up." But I know He's here, looking rakishly handsome, the way I like to see Him. For me.

He whispers, still touching me, "Were you a good or a bad monster."

His question makes me feel sad. "I don't know. I wanted to be good."

"You were helping the other monsters, weren't you?"

"Yes."

"And then what?"

"I started getting weaker, and I need more help from the stronger good monsters."

"What else?"

"A bunch of bad monsters were coming in and we were working so hard to keep them away. And then I kept falling, and I'd call for help."

"Who did you call?"

"My Mother." I called Him. Him as my Mother.

"Anything else?"

"I had these pieces of paper and oil in my hands that I touched other monsters with. Good and bad ones."

He gives me this earnest expression that makes me smile. "What could that mean?"

I laugh. "You are so not subtle. And it wasn't even a God dream."

"No, but it was your dream. So you called your Mother because you thought your writing, which was anointed with oil, was losing it's power. Profound."

"Yeah, but I kept getting back to that point of being weak. And each time it would be worse. The bad monsters would be stronger, and I'd be weaker and the last time, I'd torn a huge hole in the front of my pants and my underwear was showing. And I fell on the ground and all these little weaker bad monsters came at me. And I was so exposed. So vulnerable. It was like some freaky, night of the living dead stuff."

"Interesting metaphor."

"Ha ha ha," I say because He's smarter than me and I like it!

"Then you screamed?"

I screamed. "Why didn't you come as my Mother."

"I did."

"You're my Lover."

"This is how you wanted to see me, but I'm here. I'm your Mother."

And I start to cry. He pulls me into His arms again and puts on Switchfoot. I hear Jon singing, "Sunshine, won't you be my mother." But I hear it as "Oh Lord, won't you be my mother. Oh Lord, come and help me sing. My heart is darker than these oceans. My heart is frozen underneath." And the music sounds so good, and Jesus wants to slow dance with me to Switchfoot's sad song that I understand because I know that shadow proves the sunshine.

I don't want to sing it, or even think it, but He asks me to.

"Oh Lord, why did you forsake me?
Oh Lord, don't be far away.
Storm clouds gathering beside me.
Please Lord don't look the other way."

He asks me to tell Him, and I say, "Why did you let them do that to me? I was trying to be good. I just wanted to be honest."

"You're mad at me, aren't you?"

I don't want to admit it, but He knows I am, and it would be foolish to deny it. I nod, and He pulls me closer.

"You know I will never leave you or forsake you."

"Yeah, but you don't have a problem letting things hurt."

"If I took your pain, I'd take something from you that would change everything. You need your pain. It's there for a reason."

"I'm tired. I'm scared. And you let this happen without even warning me it was coming."

"Do you think I love you?"

I don't answer, and He burrows His face in my neck. "Do you?"

"Why do you meet me here like this? You showed Carlean your real face. And you weren't even beautiful, but here you're sweet and sexy and fine."

"What's not to like?"

"I made it up."

He puts His finger to my lips. "I made it up. And this is where I love to find you. You've come here with Me since you were a little girl and I listened to your stories. I protected you here from the bad monsters around you. This is ours. Yours and mine. Don't give up on it."

"You wouldn't let me."

"I would, baby. Just like I gave you children because you wanted them, and a man who loves you--really loves you, when I wanted you for Myself. And he knows you love Me most. He knows he's second."

"I'm sorry."

"I chose him for you. I wish you had trusted Me. But I love you. I won't stop loving you."

"I told Joe tonight that I belonged to You."

"I know."

"I was supposed to tell him that."

"Yes. You were."

"Why didn't you tell me that two years ago? It would have saved me a lot of trouble."

"I'm not good at saving you a lot of trouble when there's something important for me to show you. And now look, you're all Mine. You came when you were afraid and ready to close this place down, and that would have hurt Me."

"I can't hurt You."

"You do it all the time."

"I'm so sorry. I love you. I really do."

"I know. And sometimes you even listen to Me."

"Yes," I say.

Sneaky Jesus acts like He doesn't know what I'm talking about. "Yes?"

"Yes, I know you love me."

"Sometimes you know." And He holds me so tightly that I know He really won't ever let me go. He surprises me with His love.

We spend the rest of the time dancing and behind the music is the sound of the rain. Real rain in the real world. Morning eases through the slats of the blinds. All things I love. Rain. Greeting morning. This secret place of ours. Switchfoot. Being in His arms. This lovely place of ours. Him looking like my Lover, while being my Mother. None of this is a coincidence. Not me waking up screaming. Not His prodding me to our trysting place. Not Him telling me He doesn't want me to stop writing in a way that I know is Him. Not the music and His scent and the flowers growing on the walls, sweetening the air... some God in my bedroom. Some God in my imagination, my Lover's favorite place to meet me.

I will never understand it, but as long as He's here, I'll show up too. If only to hear Him whisper His love talk in my ear. I love Him. I love Him. I love Him.

We dance until sleep overtakes me and I rest, still dancing in His arms.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Naked Prophetess

Do you ever think about why God asked Isaiah--it was Isaiah, wasn't it?--to prophesy to Israel naked for three years? I have. It puzzles me.

Why didn't God ask him to prophesy in strange clothing like John the Baptist did? I know he preceeded the forerunner by a few thousand years, but I'm just saying, God is omnipresent. He knew all about John the baptist's odd habits and dietary choices. So why not just tripped out clothes?

Or minimal clothing? I mean, if he walked around in a loin cloth that would have garnered a lot of attention, don't you think? Maybe a really small loin cloth, like the ancient version of a g-string. The Israelites would have still gotten to see an impressive amount of skin. Right?

Or do you think there was just something about that prophet that made him more likely to preach for three years naked. Maybe he enjoyed all kinds of weather, and was kind of impervious to cold or excessive heat. Maybe he walked around his house naked a lot, and God didn't insist he wore clothes because he was a nudist. Do you think he had a nice body? We don't know much about him do we? We can gather that he was well read and had a gift for poetry. Maybe he was just really comfortable being naked.

But it's hard for me to buy that. Being naked in front of your community--your religious community had to cost him. Maybe that time when he saw the Lord, high and lifted up, train filling the temple, he understood a little more the nature of God. He said, "I am a man of unclean lips." I don't even know what that means. Did he cuss too much? Did he sexually harass women? Men? Did he do nasty things with his mouth between consenting adults? Who knows? I just know he saw the Lord, and it changed him. And the next thing you know he was walking around Israel butt naked.

I don't want God to ask me to be butt naked preaching. First of all, I'd find it terribly unfair since He knows what my stomach looks like after all those kids--and all that food. I haven't seen my abs since the 80's. Don't make me describe my belly, 'cause it hurts, y'all. Not physical pain, it hurts to have lost my former glory.

But maybe if He'd shown me a glimpse of His face, I'd have gladly surrendered my need for a tummy tuck to the scrutiny of God's people. I think seeing Him burns that kind of devotion into you. I've never seen God. He speaks to me. He gives me dreams. He says things through me I wouldn't have said on my own. In a way, He keeps me naked, and tonight I feel particularly vulnerable in that state.

I've been misunderstood, and that is a comical understatement. I've taken hits about my writing I can't tell you about. People don't always like the truth, or naked, or depressed, or raw, or sexy. They like a safe Christianity where nobody get's beat with a whip, even if they're bad, and no fig trees are harmed, and you don't have to see anybody's ass. I'm sorry if I disturbed you by saying ass. But that's exactly how it came to me.

Someone will read that and never come here again. Someone will tell somebody else I said ass and people will have meetings about me. And it makes me sad. Because we all know asses are harsher than behinds. And sometimes ass is the right word because you may be the one called to be naked, and you may be a little bit mad about it because good people say you're naked, and you know with your whole heart you're that way because God's people have shown their asses, and God doesn't like it, so he sends a prophet whose ass they have to look at for three years until they get the point.

Did you know sometimes I wish I colored inside the lines? Sometimes I wish I wrote sweet books and blogs that don't offend anybody. Sometimes I don't want to be the person who shows their ass because we can't be honest about any damned thing.

Look. I did it again. I said another bad thing but, aren't our lies damning us? Aren't the sins we're afraid to confess because people will think less of us damned things? Isn't that just the truth? And why are we afraid of the truth?

Sometimes I wished I was the teenaged missionary I used to be, when everyone was proud of me for my fiery preaching. I was 15, I hadn't even been saved a year, but I preached sermons behind our church's pulpit. When I was young Claudia Hawthorne, before I was Mair that rhymes with fire, I would have never dreamed I'd be called to say the worst things and shine the light on the darkness we don't want to see in ourselves. But you know what, I shine the light on the best things about us too! We are tenacious. Some of us claw our way through impossible odds for a drop of God to quench our awful thirst. I see you thirsty one. I'll tell your story. Some of us do everything wrong and still have a heart turned toward Love Himself in the end. I see you. And I'm writing as fast as I can.

And then there are days that my vision is dull because people say to me, we love you sister, but your, eh hem, behind is causing a disturbance, and we can't allow you to continue, whether or not God told you to take it all off, for the benefit of others.

And you know what's ironic? I love the sweet romance writer. I love the poet who always rhymes and never says ass or damn. I love the faithful who don't get enough credit because they are always faithful and it's expected of them. But I don't get to spend much time with them, because so many of us are showing our asses, and God uncovers mine to get their attention.

And it cost me something. More than you will ever know. But I pay it. Because even though I haven't seen His face, I've sensed it so very close to mine, that I could feel is breath, and the warmth of his nearness, gracing my own face.

And it makes it all worthwile.

I can only be who I am. And what I am: honest. I don't know why God asked me to be naked. Maybe because that man I lived with threw me outside so many times that way. And I lived through it. And if could do it for him, surely I can be honest and authentic and real--spiritually and emotionally naked for the One who loves me--the One who is Love Himself.

Pray for me, because the price is very high tonight.

Mair