Sunday, December 24, 2006

Anna the Prophet

Anna, The Prophet
by Ivan J. Kauffman (He Was Here, Brazos Press, 2000).

The prophet is old and stooped over, her face covered with wrinkles, like Mother Teresa. He eyes are bright and clear, like a child's. She is beaming with excitement and obviously has something important to tell us. Her voice is quiet and peaceful, but also convinced and powerful. As she speaks she constantly looks up, seaching for the next word, which produces gaps in her speech, as age as produced gaps in her teeth. The boundary between the present and the eternal has long ago begun to dissolve for her.

The Biblical Account of Jesus' Pesentation in the Temple:

"When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.

She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.

And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the chld to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem." Luke 2:22, 36-38.


He's here!
What we're waiting for.

His parents came to the temple this morning!
Cutest little thing!

Every baby, we always wondered, is this the one?
Then we'd say, "Maybe the next one."

The Roman's told us to stop.
They said, "We're it. Get used to it."

But all they had was soldiers, what could they do?
Make work for the grave diggers.
If that's all there is, why bother?
We don't need more dead bodies to bury.

We need people to pray.
It's the only thing that works.

I'm eighty-four years old.
People ask me why I don't give up.
I say, "I'm waiting."
They say, "What for."
I say, "The same thing you are."

That's why you can't get on a train if you don't have a ticket.
You wouldn't know when to get off.

People don't understand that.

They say, "What you see is what you get."
But what you see is what you're lookin' for.

Forget about the pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by stuff.
Dreams never turn out the way we think.

There's got to be real babies.
Somebody you can feel their heart beat.
Change their diapers.

People who pray understand.
The others mostly stand around and argue.

Who ever changed anything arguing?
The prayers, they're up to Yahweh,
Who knows what Yahweh can do?

That should make even the sourpusses happy.

Well, it's time for me to go now.
But you--you stay and have a party.

Sing a lot,
Kiss the girls,
Be happy.

It's gonna be a great time.

Merry Christmas, friends. Enjoy the party.



Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A little ordinary magic

Isn't it odd how our deficits catch up to us, and we find ourselves in need of something completely basic?

My son is seventeen. He's the oldest of the children I gave birth to. Because of our oldest son's misfortune and now he's gone away, Lumumba is the resident big brother. It hasn't been easy for him.

Lumumba has only been with me for two years. His father took him away from me when he was five, and I didn't know then how to fight for him. While he didn't heap on Lumumba the physical abuse he reserved for me, he was liberal with verbal and emotional abuse. It's taken my son all of these last few years to figure out simple things like who he is, what he loves authentically, and how to begin to like himself. We haven't even tapped self-love yet. These things take time. It took me ten years to recover from his father. I imagine it will take Lumumba more.

He's been sick for the last few days. An ear infection in both ears. A terrible cold, and he knocks on my door at three am.


"What is it, baby?"

"I can't sleep at all. My eyes are bothering me. I think I'm going blind."

I peek at him. He is not going blind. "You have pink eye now, honey."

"Will they have to shoot me with antibiotics?"

"I think the antibiotics you started yesterday will help. I'll get some chamomile tea. Chamomile tea bags on those eyes will clear that right up."

I can tell he still thinks he will die from all this. He sits on my bed and spills his heart out.

"I'm never going to smoke weed again. I think this is God's way of telling me that I should stop. At least for a few years."

Already he's compromising.

Because I am a mother, I can't resist siding with God on this, though I know he just has a bad cold and God is not punishing him for smoking weed. "I don't think God wants you to smoke. You should listen."

This is awful of me, but I use it anyway! Lord, have mercy! Marijuana is so plentiful around here that people smoke it like they smoke cigarettes. I need a little leverage, God help me.

He visits longer and again I assure him his demise isn't imminent. I watch him soften with my words. My big strong boy, trying so hard to be a man. Failing miserably. Three o'clock in the morning. Just wanting his mom. Having her at long last. And I'm so moved by this basic exchange. The years stretch out behind me, and I take a peek--just a peek back at them. How many of these mother/son moments we've missed. I think of Langston Hughes' poem, "Mother to Son":

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now—
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

Life is tough sometimes, and not only do we all need somebody to tell us that it is, we need someone to tell us that we'll get through it. I'm glad I can just be here for him, to have been able to take him to the pediatrician, even though he is bigger than she is (and me!)--she also gave him that motherly, "You should stop smoking" bit. I was grateful! I'm glad down in my soul for the siblings that came after him who I nursed through all kinds of childhood illness, who gave me my mother wings, even though I didn't deserve them. They taught me that if we're all breathing, we'll get through just about anything. And thank God, they're all breathing, even though Lumumba is very congested.

A dear friend lost a son to suicide a few days ago. I am grieving her terrible loss with her. It made these moments with him, so ordinary, utterly precious to me. I got to reassure my baby that all would be well. And he believed me.

It isn't much. It's like that old, bad wizard on the Christmas show (Santa Claus is Coming to Town?) that only had a handful of magic left in him, but it was enough to make reindeer fly. I released my little red-nosed boy to the night and the arms of God. He feels stronger, and a little better for it. Took all of five or six minutes.

No, it wasn't much. Just a little ordinary magic to get him through the night.

We all need that sometimes? don't we. Hey, if you remember, say some prayers for my friend and her family. They are truly hurting right now, and say a few for Lumumba, too.



Friday, December 15, 2006

Slowing Down

Tonight I got a message from one of my Myspace friends. I guess I am a Myspace loser/geek/undesirable. I rarely get messages, and mostly from people I know or people grossly, and shamelessly selling a product. This wasn't one of those messages. It was just a simple appeal to take a moment from all the holiday bustle and remember Christ. The fact that they guy was good looking didn't hurt either--if that's his real picture. Anyway, I couldn't resist (okay, I could, but didn't) looking at his page to see a little more about what he's about. Turns out he's a very positive person. Helps a lot of people. Apparently enjoys eating out--he mentioned it like, three times. And is just an all around good guy, who enjoys great conversation. Somebody you'd take home to mother--at least it seems like it. You know how Myspace is.

But I was struck by the fact that he said he needs to slow down and not work so hard. Isn't it funny that Mr. Give, Give, Give, has trouble stopping. And isn't that oddly revealing. A bit of nakedness that startled me. Or maybe I always know how to find the spot that needs the prayer.

Since he'd taken the time to send me such a cool message, I thought I'd send him one as well. I'm frightenly adept at being leisurely, but more than that, God is teaching me to truly slow down and listen to everything. An ancient, Orthdox prayer says:

O Heavenly King,
Spirit of Truth Who are everywhere and fills all things
Treasury of Good Things, and Giver of Life
Come and abide in us, cleanse us of every sin,
and save our souls, O Good One.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal,
have mercy on us. (Repeated 3 x for each person of the Godhead.)

I think of this prayer often, and how it affirms the Holy Spirit filling all things. The mystery of that. I am finding God in nature in a way that I was afraid of, but it's like Edna St. Vincent Millay said in one of her poems, "God, I can push the grass apart, and lay my finger on thy heart."

I thought about these things as I read Sebastian's message, and how he revealed a bit of his struggle. We all need to slow down and listen, whether we work, or are just being lazy and unaware. God is always trying to get our attention. He just keeps speaking. But can we hear Him?

I felt an urge to write to Sebastian. This is what I said:

So, you asked for suggestions about slowing down and not working so hard...

The wound reveals the cure. Slow down and don't work so hard. Play more. Keep the child inside you alive because Jesus said, "allow the children to come to me and don't prevent them." Such is the kingdom of heaven. Make sure to have some toys in your life. Give lavishly. Laugh a lot. Talk too loud. Love without discrimination. Look for God messages and surprises everywhere. He is always speaking, and has a kooky sense of humor. Once I brooded and grieved a situation I didn't take to God. He (and Son and Holy Spirit) spoke to me through a billboard as I was driving down the street. It was an ad for an exterminator, with a gigantic roach on it that said, "We know what's bugging you." I laughed my way back to grace and peace.

When you enjoy eating out, take time to be a culinary contemplative. Experience your food as a gift and a bit of art. (I add this for you ragamuffin diva reader, because it occurs to me now: Bless it for all it will do for you, body, soul, and spirit.)

Keep being one of the good guys. Don't abuse anything that is beautiful. Tell women and children that they are precious because we get far too many messages that tell us otherwise. Remember life is short, and eternity long, so get a head start on heaven by living well. Nourish your body, remembering that the earth has everything you need to take care of it.

Visit the ocean. Lie on the sand. Let the sun shine on your beautiful, brown skin.

Bless everyone, even those who persecute you.

Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God.

Love and grace, my friend.

Thanks for the wonderful message of remembering Christ.


Friday, December 08, 2006

A Garden Growing Out of Season

Do you believe in miracles?

I do. Today I met a woman with a garden full of them. She's the kind of person who knows the language of flowers, like St. Francis, or St. Hildegard. Somehow, she's blessed to understand and experience the interconnectedness of our friends in the natural world. She listens to the green. She praises God with the rocks. She lives in the middle of the city, but plants love her. At her house today I was surrounded by the beauty of sage she'd harvested from her back yard. It was amazing just to touch it. Have you ever really looked at sage? It reminds me of a line in The Color Purple, when Shug Avery says something like, "How can you look at the color purple and not know there is a God?"

Anyway, God asked Merri to make medicine from the flowers, but she didn't really didn't jump at the chance. She was very busy. It was September. Michigan has a short growing seasons. She said, "There isn't much left. There are astors and mums. Just tell me." She said the next day she and her husband were praying and she suddenly looked up at a dead cherry tree in her yard. It was full of blossoms and green leaves. She said she laughed and cried and praised God all at once. That season, and for the past four years her garden has thrived,in a most blessed way. Merri helps sick people get better. The flowers aid her in this ministry. I think it is yet another example of how God's provision is available, always, even in the fall when strawberry vines and cherry trees flower and fruit way past their time because God needs them to for sick people.

Once Jesus cursed a fig tree when he was very hungry. This time, He blessed a dead cherry tree and it flowered out of season. Her garden is full of miracles of this kind.

Someone asked me how I am tonight. I am happy to report that I am blossoming out of season. The clarity of my mind and spirit astonish me. I am never, ever well in this season. Gifts of grace and provision are overtaking me. There are so many blessings that I cannot contain them all. I am a miracle this winter.

Blooming out of season. God has changed my wintertide into just Spring, when the world is mudlucious and puddle-wonderful, just like e.e. cummings said.