(84) i hope it helps {flashback}

I press a bag with two granola bars and two bananas into his hands.
What is this? He looks confused,
overwhelmed by human contact perhaps.
I explain and feel embarrassed.
It’s not even lunch
barely a snack for a grown man
and it cost me less than $4.

I hope it helps, I say.
Anything helps, he mumbles
as if the words on his sign
have soaked into his soul.
I drive away,
heart heavy.

 

Originally written in my journal in April 2013.

(73) grace on the kitchen floor

I sat on the kitchen floor
in the midst of the unfinished process of the day’s life
mostly just a heap of dishes waiting there
and a half-finished meal in process
and the floor in constant need of mopping

And this beautiful, small person
climbed all over me,
welcoming me to her level
with overwhelming affection,
sharing my tea and
showing me what life really looks like.

There was so much grace in that moment;

That is where I want to live.

(46a) roll over

We’re watching her struggle on the floor, my sister and I. Her brain is wrestling with instinct, something in her almost-four-month-old self is convinced that there is more to life than lying on her back watching the world pass by, high above, and certainly more to it than living belly and face down (tummy time, oh horror of horrors!). She has mastered a mixture of strength and momentum, using feet swung into the air and a twist of shoulders to roll from back to side and she performs this trick again and again.

But she wants to go further. She grasps her clothing, the blanket she’s lying on, in her perseverance and struggle to go further. She cries with frustration before pausing to suck her fingers to soothe her anxiety and angst. And then she tries again, little knees and feet swinging over, arms and hands grasping, even using the weight of her head to reach further.

She was a tired little bean that evening after all that work. Maybe she’ll make it all the way another day.

The funny thing to realize is that I’m so terribly proud of her for just trying so hard. I’m not worried about whether she’ll roll over tomorrow or next week or even by her next checkup. I’m confidant she will figure it out soon. In the meantime, I am inexplicably delighted by her efforts and perseverance. There’s a good lesson to be learned in that.

(38) seeing people – part 3

At the end of each yoga class, we sit facing the instructor, palms together at “heart center.” “Namaste,” she says, bowing to us, bringing her hands and forehead all the way to her mat. “Namaste,” we respond with the same gesture.

Namaste. “I bow to you.” Or “The divine light within me bows to the divine light within you.”

Or, as Gandhi is reputed to have explained to Einstein, this traditional Hindu greeting and farewell means,

“I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides. I honor the place in you of light, love, truth, peace and wisdom. I honor the place in you where, when you are in that place, and I am in that place, there is only one of us.”

Namaste.

It seems that in the holy traditions of the world, there is a common thread of God encouraging us to recognize Himself in each other.

I imagine the word itself would not be well understood in the checkout line in the grocery store or over the phone to a customer, but I also imagine the attitude of honoring the Divine light in the other would probably be well understood and could spark transformation, at the very least in my own heart.

(37) a bit of everything

The truth is, sometimes there is no connecting thought, no common thread. Except that this is what I noticed, today.

***

I thought about the fact that we need to replace some aspect of the left front axle on the Passat, the CV joint or boot or something, as I was driving home on Interstate 5. The Les Schwab guys reminded us of this when they rotated the tires — I say reminded because Zack texted me from their waiting area to ask if we’d known this already? Hadn’t we had that axle replaced already? And after looking at the paperwork I’d kept, I was able to confirm that no, we had replaced the other side and yes, we had been informed of this problem in July when we spent a few hundred dollars just so the mechanics could tell us what needed to be fixed.

The gentleman who changed the oil that same day last week told me as I paid that the transmission fluid on the truck was dirty. This strikes me as significant somehow, perhaps because (a) I do know basically what the transmission does, but I don’t know exactly why it has fluid, (b) I am not sure what the intended color of said fluid is, so I wouldn’t necessarily know that it was dirty, and (c) he knows all of this in detail I probably can’t imagine, and even knows exactly where the transmission is located on our two different cars, and then has the good graces to explain this to me although I am probably recognizably clueless.

I am so used to knowing things that I guess it is uncomfortable to simply take a stranger at his/her word and then invest so much money and time repairing and maintaining and caring for aspects of a vehicle that I’ve never even seen. I wonder if this points to trust issues.

It also doesn’t seem wise to think about car repairs while driving at 70 miles per hour.

***

I watched a couple dozen miniature people happily buzzing around this incredible indoor playground today as I babysat my friend’s children. I’ve heard something about how children of a certain age (I believe younger toddlers?) play alongside each other and only later do they actually begin playing together. It certainly seemed that most of these small children were more or less in his/her own world. Unlike us grown-ups though, who often also move in our own worlds and can sometimes protest with frustration when worlds collide, changing our direction, plans or purpose, the world collision in the playground seemed like a happy coincidence. Look, another small person like me! Hello there! And goodbye! It is also intriguing watching budding personalities…bud. Interesting to hear many unique names called into the space and to see small people attend to the name they’ve been given.

The 5-year-old I was entrusted with today insisted on wearing nothing more than a leotard, tights, shoes and rain jacket to this playground today. I protested lightly before wondering if it was worth the protest. I certainly don’t feel comfortable wandering the world in tights and a leotard, but she is just 5. Do I feel the outfit choice is inappropriate because it is somehow inappropriate or immodest? Or am I simply handing along my learned self-consciousness of my own body? Since I could not answer this question to my own satisfaction, I allowed her to wear what she wished. And as it turned out, she was right — the outfit she had chosen was perfect for her main purpose in visiting the playground today, that is, to wear one glamorous dress-up outfit after another. Other little girls had to awkwardly layer princess and ladybug costumes over their already-bulky winter clothing, but not my smart little charge.

***

I read a few paragraphs in An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor this afternoon, a book I’ve been working through and enjoying immensely. This struck me in her chapter on vocation (p. 110):

Then one night when my whole heart was open to hearing from God what I was supposed to do with my life, God said, “Anything that pleases you.”

“What?” I said… “What kind of an answer is that?”

“Do anything that pleases you,” the voice in my head said again, “and belong to me.”

I thought about this for a while. I emailed the quote to my husband and articulated the question that was fluttering around the apparent miracle of this small quote: Does this also apply to me?

And then my 5-year-old friend reappeared from her quiet time and we snuggled on the couch under a purple blanket to watch a riveting film about Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue.

I wonder now what she might have said if I’d asked her if God has something specific for us to do or if he wants us to do what pleases us and simply belong to him. I should have asked.

***

And echoing in what feels like the deep backstage of my mind since Saturday night is this oh-so-familiar quote from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing,yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of Godabove all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

When a familiar conversation about finances and future plans with my dear husband on Saturday led to late night tears of anxiety, he finally reminded me gently that my worrying doesn’t actually change anything, so would I please stop worrying and allow us both to rest? And I immediately heard the refrain I’ve memorized and repeated a million times sing out in my heart, “which of you be worrying can add a single hour to his (or her) life?”

Ah yes, but so much easier memorized and repeated than done.

The not-so-nice truth is that I judge others for worrying too much, when I, in fact, also worry — far too often, far too much.

Jesus must know this about me, though. Otherwise why would he have expended such valuable space in his famous sermon on these beautiful word pictures that I obviously still need to digest and reflect upon and learn by heart and life?

***

I came home tonight, in the dark, to Christmas lights and a warm house and a husband making hot chocolate for both of us because he knew I’d be home soon. And if you know her, please do not tell my sweet 5-year-old friend that I did exactly what I had been telling her all afternoon she could not do: I had a cookie with my hot chocolate, all before dinner.

(36) seeing people – part 2

I’ve been learning this lesson slowly over what feels like a long time now.

It’s much more difficult to argue an issue when you’ve loved the people behind that issue. It is practically impossible to take sides in a war when you have met people affected by the war.

Take Israel and Palestine, for example. The social, economic, political, ethnic, religious, geographic and historical tensions surging and surfacing in the recent spilling over of conflict between these two nation-states (I believe we can consider Palestine as such, after the UN’s recognition of it recently?) are enormous and unmanageable and almost inexplicable. It’s all just so much to understand, to consider when taking sides. Supremely rational and thoughtful posts like this one from Pastor Jonathan Martin are helpful for Jesus-followers seeking to understand the issue.

But I read about a Californian food writer and cookbook author baking bread with an Arab woman in Nazareth and this one woman, with her olive skin and love for fresh yogurt and skilled bread-making hands, comes alive to me. She and I are pretty different, to be sure. But we’re also much the same. We love to feed our families, to participate in nourishing and sustaining them for their days’ work. She probably knows exactly how her husband likes his food prepared, as I am learning about mine. She’s a woman, with loves and fears and dreams and plans, like me.

http://5secondrule.typepad.com/.a/6a00e552049b248833017ee5e169e0970d-pi

Now the issue has a face. The war is the backdrop to this woman’s life. And I no longer want to argue about taking sides, but just to stand for peace. Which is kind of what Martin was saying. And is also captured in this comment:

“…the more we see each other as individuals and recognize what we have in common, the harder it becomes to justify hatred and violence…” (originally quoted here)

I need to get out more.

I need to live beside and alongside people who are very different than I am and learn who they are and catch glimpses of our shared humanness. I need to be careful with my tongue and look for the true humanity rising above all argument over issues before I speak my opinions. I need to feel confused sometimes and admit that I don’t know the answer and ask questions to understand. I need to be brave to change my mind when I realize I’ve taken sides against people, other human people just like me.

(32) seeing people

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“Jesus looked at him and loved him.

When we ask to see through Jesus’ eyes, feel with his heart, what are we really asking for?

It might make you crazy broken inside, even just a little glimpse.

That moment recorded in Mark’s gospel (Mk 10:21) is this precious exchange between Jesus and this young guy who asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus gets around to answering his question, but not without first looking at him and loving him.

Do I take the time to really look at another person? What about the rushing cashier at the grocery store? The co-worker with whom I simply don’t find much common ground? The family member(s) who hold tightly to views and opinions so different from mine?

Do I take a moment to not just look to evaluate, label or judge, but rather to love?

The question is not what you look at, but what you see. (H. D. Thoreau)

Reading this article yesterday, I think I had a tiny glimpse of Jesus’ heart, that love that stops and sees. Statistics feel different when they are made incarnate in people, real hoping, bleeding, breathing, fighting to survive, people just like me. And for a tiny transient second, the tears felt as real as if I was grieving my own husband, my own child. And then reading this post and comment, my heart aches again, any argument over position and issue and sin fading in the raw honesty of real people in the messiness of living and loving.

This would change so much, if I learned to look at people and love them, setting all issues aside.