Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mary's Easter


The feast of Mary Magdeline is on my parent's wedding anniversary.  I don't know if I ever knew that before this week.  I also don't remember loving her story so very much.  So much it made me write something worth sharing after over a year.  So here it goes:

I walk with slow but steady tread
The rising sun’s pink and yellow stains the path
Precious oils held in unshaking hands

There is no grief in my weary soul
Numbness is my companion now
A reprieve from days of agony

I round the bend toward the stone
Then I am running as if chased by demons to reach the mouth
Silence and emptiness flow out as mist on the sea

My heart wound splits anew
Broken and cracked like the giant stone laying near the path
Pepples cut my knees as I
I fall to the ground...

The hour of three turns
His head slumps to his chest
His ematiated body hangs limp and lifeless 
I can not breathe

Soldiers scurry through the storm that has just blown in
The earth moves beneath their feet
A sword pierces his flesh, his precious flesh
I have never felt such pain

Relief that his suffering has ended 
Should balm my heart but
The silent tears on young John’s face
Sear my soul

His mother falters and I reach for her
I hear a splitting sound
Which is her heart.  Or is it mine
Or is it something far away in the temple

No heart can hold this much grief
Hers, mine, the world’s
I wish for death
But the body must be prepared...

I rise turning this way and that
What could they be doing to him
Have they not done enough to us

My mind is a frenzy of bees and blood 
I see a man in white, a simple gardener
There is no malice in his strong face

Where have you taken him
Please do you know where they have taken him
Tell me and I will go

Grief is dulled by rising panic
I cling to him praying that he has seen
And can help me find my Lord

“Mary.”

Peace rushes like the waves of flood
Joy overflows like a rain swollen river
My heart soars higher than the mountain of our ancestors

“Teacher”.  It is not a question
For my heart can not decieve me in this
My broken heart is new, pumping hope through my veins

And into the world
As I run like the winds of the desert to tell Peter
What I know.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I need advice



My going into 7th grader has a summer reading assignment.  It is a 10 part project that will take a month, so we will be spending a lot of time with the book.  Problem:  He doesn't want to read it.  Disclaimer:  He will read ANYTHING, almost.

The book is Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Crowe.  The book jacket told him it was about a vicious murder of a black teen.  He hates books about death, especially violent death (Hunger Games included).  So, I read the book.  It is one of those books that leave you feeling icky.  They include portions from the real trial which include the fact that the young boy has his genitals removed during his murder.  I did not find it particularly well written.  I didn't really like any of the characters.  I certainly don't want to spend a month on it and I am not sure I should make him.

I think racism and civil rights appropriate subject matter for 7th grade, but to begin the discussion with something so heavy seems almost too much.  The book doesn't leave you with a clear sense of anything.  The injustice is glaring but how one meets such injustice isn't really to be found except "do the right thing even if it is hard."  But my guy will see that doing the right thing in MS 1955 didn't help anyone, most especially the dead black kid.  He will only remember the cruelty.  And he will have to spend a month in Mississippi 1955, a place none of us would want to be for long.  Not sure that is a good thing.

We have read hard stuff.  MacBeth has some violence, Harry Potter has some death of characters you love.  But this seems different.  Racism has no easily explained reason, like you want to be king.  And the solutions to our country's racism are still being figured out today.  It is not an easy subject and having visual images of the cruelty may make it harder to discuss for one who inherently finds it evil.  I don't have to convince him racism is wrong.  He knows it.  What he doesn't yet have, and what I don't know if I want him to have is a visual of just how damn cruel human beings can be.

So...
Do I just skip it?
Write the teacher and ask to use a different book with no explanations?
Call her to discuss my concerns?
What would you do?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Relationships

The older I become, the more clear it is, that all of human life is about relationship. A life well lived is one in which the circle of relationship grows. The perfect life expands to encompass the entire of humanity. A poor life is one which is isolated and where the primary relationship one has is with himself.


Our life is a series of relationships. Some are more equal than others, but each is a giving and a receiving of our very selves.


This begins at the moment of conception. Even before our consciousness is awakened, we are in a beautiful and symbiotic relationship with our mother. On her part, the mother provides all the physical needs of her tiny infant. On his part, the child gives the gift of complete dependency. Lest you think this too inequitable to be termed relationship, think of the unborn Christ Child. Yes, He would go on to give the gift of Life to the whole world, the balance of giving and receiving so shifted as to become the most inequitable in all of human history, but His first gift was His complete dependency on His mother. Love requires of us dependency. One can not be in loving relationship without being both needed and dependent. This does not denigrate relationship, it defines it.


As we grow, our initial relationships are with our parents, siblings, extended family, close friends and neighbors. It is in the family that we learn what love is. We learn there is a time for obedience and a time for moral courage. All relationship is a balance between action and inaction: When do we speak, when do we listen; when do we lead and when do we follow.


Sometimes the nature of the relationship determines our responsibility: A child obeys his parents while a parent leads his child. This does not mean a child does not teach his parent, any who have children know of this certainty. But the child does not lead, to expect him to is negligence. It is most often through his following that we, the parent, learn our greatest lessons: both of our imperfect leading and how we fall short in those relationships in which we are required to follow.


The most equitable relationship of man is the spousal relationship. This does not mean "best" or "purest" or "most desirable." It simply means that it is the most equal in both the giving and the receiving. It is the only relationship which requires a total giving of self by BOTH parties. In no other human relationship do we give completely of ourselves with the just expectation that we receive another self in return. It is a foolish parent who expects that kind of return from a child. It is a foolish maiden that expects that kind of return from a string of beaus. It is a foolish employee that expects that kind of return from an employer.


But it is a foolish bride who does not expect it from her groom.

And a justly disappointed groom who does not receive it from his bride.


There is no leader or follower in this relationship. It is a union so profound as to be more horizontal than vertical. To be sure, in practice, we take turns pulling each other up the cliff toward heaven, but a better image of the relationship is two bodies, hand in hand, walking up the incline at a slow and steady pace.


Each spouse is completely dependent on the other while living the opposite. We work as if his happiness is in our hands, knowing that our own is his for the giving. It is a moving circle like a tornado. And like the tornado, it is both small and large, always centered, created by cold and warm, touching heaven and earth and changing everything it touches, pulling all it passes into its embrace.


(And for the cynical who only see in my analogy the destruction left in its wake, ask yourself if you want the passion of a tornado or a gentle rain shower to describe the mark your marriage left on the world? There is a time for rain, but there is a time for tornados as well. Rain may pass unnoticed; tornadoes rarely do.)


It is for this reason that the relationship between Christ and His church is compared to that of man and wife. The Church needs Christ, this I do not have to explain. But Christ also needs the church in order to complete the plan of His Father. We can not do it alone, but God has required of Himself that He can not do it without us.


Take a minute to let that sink in. Take a minute to dwell in the presence of that kind of love. A tiny human is by nature dependent, it is in his nature to give the gift of dependency, just as it is in the nature of woman to nurish her child. Almighty God is by nature completely independent. He needs nothing. His Trinitarian Nature is Perfect and Eternal relationship. Yet, He condescends to need us in order to allow us to be in relationship with Him.


All of life is aimed at learning this one lesson. All of life is aimed at learning how to be in relationship. Whether it is with our mother, a friend, a dog or a tree, relationship requires we learn how to give and receive. Both aspects require that we learn to shed our selfishness. Yes, even learning how to receive requires self denial. For in each of our relationships, we are giving and receiving something. And for everything we receive, we must give something up. But more importantly, we must do something. In marriage, to be loved, we must love. In parenting, to learn we must teach. In friendship, to be heard we must listen.


So when you think of relationship, of love, do you focus on what you give or what you get?


Do you see all relationship as inherently selfish, for you can only see what you get?


Do you see it as inherently selfless for you can only see what you give?


Or do you see a tornado where the lines are so blurred all you can see is the moving circle that changes everything? Destruction of all the man made structures? Uprooted trees? Perhaps.


Or in its wake, can we see more clearly where earth and heaven meet?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Going Deep

I am reading a book called Last Child in the Woods. The author's premise is that recent generations' distance from nature is having detrimental effects on everything from attention to creativity. He terms the problem Nature Deficit Disorder. With our technological and smaller world, many have access to untold information about nature and have travelled across the globe, but, he argues, our grandparents who never left their small towns, while having no idea about the rain forest, knew their own woods and prairies intimately. Today's children may know much about Global ecology and endangered animals, but they do not know nature. Parent's fears and modern day distractions deprive children of just getting out in nature in unstructured ways. Whether it was a patch of park in New York City or a tree in the suburbs or a creek in a small town, past generations had opportunities to unite with nature in free, unstructured ways.

I feel his premise is just another aspect of the idea that has been forming in my head for awhile. Our children have too many distractions. There are things which are objectively better than others, and given the opportunity, children recognize these things. They know that visiting a nursing home is better than going to the swimming pool. Playing a game of capture the flag is better than Special Ops X box. Making up an imaginary world for one's action figures beats watching a movie. They will not choose the better portion, at least not most kids, but after the fact, if asked, they recognize it.

Being out doors is certainly the perfect setting for eliminating distractions. There is so much to contemplate out doors that is worthy of our time. However, I think there is also much to contemplate indoors. We simply do not allow our children the time to just go deep.

Whether it is sitting with a book that is not so simple that it requires no thought, in order to think about what the heck the author is trying to say... Or looking at a beautiful painting and imagining what the artist was thinking while he painted it... Or listening to beautiful music and being in awe of the genius of, say, a Mozart... Or climbing a tree and imaging one's self in a pagoda in China...Or looking for a secret door in the honey suckle...Or listening to the repetitive chirp of a bird and trying to figure out the code.

And to hear that chirp and realize that the bird sees the cat and is sending out the warning signal to his fellow birds is better than any High Score. Recognizing a song and knowing it is Mozart is better than any rerun of Phinias and Ferb. Knowing you are right that the artist was listening to a thunder storm as he painted or imaging that you found the secret door or that you are in China is the stuff that childhood should be made of.

Every generation looks at the current one and longs for the "good old days." I don't think there is such a thing. Every generation had problems and every generation had gifts. I have no desire to go back to an age of card catalogues and paying for long distance. I think my parents had to make the same choices I have to make: How to provide the opportunity for our children to experience the pure joy of childhood. They had different obstacles to overcome than we. But it comes down to deciding if that is what you want.

Like Last Child in the Woods, there are numerous books out there telling us what the problem is. I think the solution is simply to remove the distractions. Give your kids the opportunity to go deep in to something, anything, rather than skate along the surface.

*So far, Last Child in the Woods is a great book worth reading.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Letters

For anyone who is interested. Following are my Christmas Letters.


Edward,


God gives us many gifts all through our lives. It seems the greatest ones are often the those we forget. Christ was the greatest gift to the world. I hope This Christmas, one gift I give to you, is the chance to remember that and feel the great peace and joy that settled over the whole earth the night when He was born.


One of the greatest gifts that God gave me was your father. And with him, God gave me you. I loved you before I saw your cute face or heard your contagious laugh. But with each passing day, I love new things about you.


I love your excitement about and love of learning.


I love that you laugh so easily.


I love that when I explain something to you, you listen and you understand.


I love that you are easy going.


I love that you are not materialistic.


I love that you care about my opinion.


I love the unique way your mind works.


I love the stories you write or hope to write.


I love, that while you are so smart and things come so easily to you, you are humble and kind.


But if all those things suddenly vanished, I would still and will always love YOU!


Merry Christmas,

MOM



Henry,


God gives us many gifts all through our lives. It seems the greatest ones are often the those we forget. Christ was the greatest gift to the world. I hope This Christmas, one gift I give to you, is the chance to remember that and feel the great peace and joy that settled over the whole earth the night when He was born.


One of the greatest gifts God gave me was your father. And with him, God gave me you. I loved you before you sprang into the world so quickly they had to grab a doctor heading to her car to deliver you. Before you could smile that heartwarming smile, I loved you. But with each passing day, I love new things about you.



I love your imagination.


I love that you feel responsible for the small creatures in the world.


I love that you like it when I cry over sweet things.


I love that you are always polite.


I love that you know how to make others feel good about themselves.


I love the songs you compose on the piano.


I love that you appreciate the beauty of words.


I love how you remember every story you have ever heard.


I love that you recognize true joy and acknowledge it when you see it.


But if all those things suddenly vanished, I would still and will always love YOU.


Merry Christmas,

MOM


Sarah,


God gives us many gifts all through our lives. It seems the greatest ones are often the those we forget. Christ was the greatest gift to the world. I hope This Christmas, one gift I give to you, is the chance to remember that and feel the great peace and joy that settled over the whole earth the night when He was born.


One of the greatest gifts God gave me was your father. And with Daddy, God gave me you. I loved you before I saw your sweet little face and before I knew you as my first little girl. But with each passing day, I love new things about you.


I love when you sing from way down in your soul.


I love when you write beautiful prayers.


I love that people call you my Mini Me.


I love your sense of style and that you are your own person.


I love that you care about every one of your stuffed animals.


I love the pictures you draw and the cards you make.


I love how you want your daddy to kiss you good night.


I love when you do gymnastics.


I love how loyal you are to those you love.


But if all those things suddenly vanished, I would still and will always love YOU!


Merry Christmas,

MOM




Simon,


God gives us many gifts all through our lives. It seems the greatest ones are often the those we forget. Christ was the greatest gift to the world. I hope This Christmas, one gift I give to you, is the chance to remember that and feel the great peace and joy that settled over the whole earth the night when He was born.


One of the greatest gifts God gave me was your father. And with Daddy, God gave me you. I loved you from the moment I saw your face on the computer. I loved you before I ever heard your voice or held your hand. But with each passing day, I love new things about you.


I love how you can figure out how to put things together.


I love that you are kind to your friends.


I love that you are polite to adults.


I love that you can do a job really well.


I love the boats and planes and toys you make with paper and string.


I love that you now trust me.


I love how quickly you learned to speak English.


I love how you like to wear a tie.


I love how you can see the good in things.


But if all these things suddenly vanished, I would still and will always love YOU!


Merry Christmas,

MOM



Lilly,


God gives us many gifts all through our lives. It seems the greatest ones are often the those we forget. Christ was the greatest gift to the world. I hope This Christmas, one gift I give to you, is the chance to remember that and feel the great peace and joy that settled over the whole earth the night when He was born.


One of the greatest gifts God gave me was your father. Together with daddy, God gave me you. I loved you before I saw your face in a little picture delivered by the UPS man, before I knew which little girl God had chosen for me. But with every passing day, I love new things about you.


I love how you march around with your broom cross.


I love how you love to clean.


I love how you love the mass.


I love how quickly you learn things.


I love how you love basketball.


I love how independent you are.


I love when you giggle.


I love that you love to read.


I love that you practice and practice until you have figured out how to do what you are trying.


But if all these things suddenly vanished, I would still and will always love YOU!


Merry Christmas,

MOM




Radical Christmas Results

Now, officially out of the Christmas Season, I am still in a sort of daze at the success of our radical Christmas. I knew that all my efforts to create a new kind of Christmas experience would one day be recognized by my children. But I was certainly not prepared for what happened. We did quite a few things we have never done before, like working a soup kitchen on Christmas Day, but the real Radical was what happened on Christmas eve and on Christmas morning before the sun came up.

Reason for the change: My kids were fighting over what they could put on their Christmas Wish Lists. No actual toys needed for greediness here. We can fight over the idea of junk.

Radical Change: They were informed on the First Sunday of Advent that I was writing to Santa and he would only be filling their stockings. I was asking him to take their toys to a needy child instead. From us they would be getting one thing and it would be special, but not a toy.

Implementation Part One: On Christmas eve they were given their gift from me. Each child received a letter with a list of ten things I love about them. Taped to the letter was a small brass key. The key opened a hand carved wooden box from Poland. Inside the box was a set of dog tags for the boys with their initials and a cross, for the girls, a Love God bracelet. They each also received five silver coins representing five Polish Saints.

Result: It looked as if it was going to get ugly when son number two, getting impatient to open something, began to say things like "It isn't even like Christmas. We might as well not even get anything." My intention was to wait until his cousins had gone to do the gifts, but I gave him his letter and told him to take the box in another room to open it. He returned to the room after having gone down stairs to do something. He gave me a hug and said, "I gave my cousin my phiten (his prize possession)." "Why?" I asked. "Because Mom," he began fingering the dog tags," I will be wearing these, like, for my whole life." A few weeks later, after being rather a pain, I received a letter from him on my computer with a list of things he loves about me.

Her aunt read my daughter her letter. As it was read, I saw her nod her head with a satisfied smile on her face. My oldest just gave me a hug, folded his letter and placed it in his box of treasures. He put his key on his dog tags and placed them around his neck.

Then one by one, with boxes under arm and without being asked, they silently slipped up to bed.

Implementation Part 2: Their stockings on Christmas morning contained mostly candy. I did include an old fashion tin of marbles in each and a figurine: Alexander the Great, Sherlock Holmes, and Blackbeard the Pirate to name three, nothing modern or exciting. I stayed in bed not really wanting to witness the morning. From my bed, to my great shock and surprise, I heard the normal Christmas sounds: "Awesome, look at this!" "His pipe comes out." "Look at this armor, is this the coolest thing you have ever seen." "Anyone want to play me in marbles?"

What I think they learned and what I know I did:

*When think we are owed nothing, everything begets gratitude.

*Though we think we want all sorts of things, what we really want, and in fact what we need, is to know we are loved.

And isn't that what Christmas is about. We were owed nothing, but God so loved the world He sent His Only Son. And shouldn't we all get to feel just once how:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Soul felt its worth.

I lied when I said they went silently to bed. What I did hear floats on the wind still...

"This was the best gift I have ever gotten."

Was it the Box? Its contents? The letter? Or did I somehow manage despite all my failings and insecurities to remove the distractions and manage to let the soul feel its worth?