Monday, December 1, 2014

December 1 - Advent Day 2 - Home

I stumbled upon an Advent Photo-A-Day devotional calendar and though I am not using it to post photos, I am using the themes and recommended scriptures for each day of Advent. I am struck by the difficulty that I am having in this season. My words are not flowing as easily as they usually do but there is something to be said for the silencing of thoughts and words and the heightened attention that is given to observation. I made a commitment to write during Advent, but the thoughts may be jumbled and incoherent - as if written in the darkness while I wait for the return of the muse.'s theme is home.

In advent, we work and wait and wade through the darkness and that darkness often finds its way into our homes. Though we have access to artificial light with the click of a wall switch or the turn of a small wand, there is something about the darkness that gives us pause. Even when we find our way around in the darkness we cannot actually escape it. We can only become familiar with it. We learn to  manage ourselves under its cover. Unless and until we find a source of light, we are captive to the darkness and it forces us to adjust our vision and our actions. 

How do we shine a light in our homes? 
Perhaps with an advent candle. 
Perhaps with words that illuminate our situation instead of lies that reframe our reality. 
Perhaps with kindnesses extended to loved ones that we ordinarily reserve for strangers or those we deem worthy of our most polite interactions. 

The darkness seeps into our homes and we must sweep every corner and light every dark place with our advent candles for we are not the only ones who wait for the God who comes. We wait in anticipation of rescue but an adversary waits alongside us planting seeds of doubt or worse -  misappropriated expectations - so that when God comes and comes as a child we are let down and no longer trust the God who promised to come. 

We want tradition and are led astray by culture. 
We want justice (American Style) and God comes to provide another vision of justice for all. 
God comes to bring reinforcements for the fight but we forgot to suit up and we forgot to fight.
Fear languishes in the darkness seeking to take our faith away. But the prophet declares that no one shall make them afraid. We will not study war anymore. 
What will it look like to live peaceably with all men? 
What will it look like to hear and live out the fulfillment of the promise? 
When will we see the God who comes? 
Perhaps when we adjust the light in our homes and remember to fear not the dark nor the dangers that lurk therein.
God does not come as another sun or another star. God clothes the light in flesh. There is a spark in each of us that will light the way through this dark time if we make room for it. There is a light that outshines the artificial light of lamps in my home. It is the light that is in me. It is my job to make dark places light with my love and my life. It's not a holiday song, but I feel like singing, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!" Shine while you wait. Shine in the darkness and give the world a glimpse of the Light that is to come!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

November 30 Advent Day One - Hope

Advent is the time to light candles and wait for the God who comes. Lately, the darkness has swallowed my words and has numbed my fingers as they seek to write the words that cannot escape from my throat. My words have been washed in darkness but now, slowly, tentatively, they will emerge again and keep me company as I wait for the child to come. Today's theme is Hope.

The darkness is thick and
I cannot see my hands clasped in in front of my face
While I pray in and through the darkness
Waiting and looking for the light to break through like the dawn

These same hands outstretched in worship
Waiting for the God who comes

One hand outstretched
   hand balled up in a clenched fist
   fighting against the dark
   striking at things that cannot be seen
   swinging in the darkness
     praying to connect from my position of power
     praying that I don't hit something unseen that will
        smash my outstretched fist into useless bits
The other hand outstretched
      waiting with a painkilling pill
         in the center of my palm
           burning a hole in my hand
             daring me to bring the hand to my mouth
                 and swallow the pill that will kill the pain

Two hands outstretched in the darkness
     one fighting because there is hope
        one outstretched waiting for the replacement
          hoping for some relief

Both hands clasped together
in the posture of prayer
Fighting, waiting, and hoping
For the God who will come

Sunday, November 2, 2014

finally free

His fingertips understood her alphabet 
and he read the braille that was her skin 
no words were required 
only the healing that comes from a touch
 a touch that knows that it is also receiving
 as well as giving 
a touch that remembers 
the last time 
and anticipates the next 
his fingertips gently pressing 
along her cheekbone 
her tears washing over his fingernails 
his steady hand remained alongside her jaw
 and his other hand pressed gently 
      on her shoulder 
            reassuring her 
                that he was always there 
                         whether physically present 
                              or not 
he could feel the tension in her 
and he knew to wait 
    he knew to wait 
until the tension rolled 
up from her toes 
through her legs 
around her abdomen 
 into her chest and 
finally came out of her mouth 
in heaving racking sobs 
he had not caused the pain 
but with her in his hands 
he felt it 
he felt all of the pain 
that was coursing through her body 
he could not take it away 
nor did he try 
he did the noble thing 
he shared it 
he neither diminished  
nor denied  
he merely stood 
holding her 
her shelter 
   in this particular storm 
he had promised to protect her 
and here he was 
fulfilling his promise 
finally she was able 
to let it all go 
finally she found a way 
to stop carrying it 
by herself 
she believed that he loved her 
as he had always promised 
and finally 
she was free to love him back 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A stack of letters

I wrote a stack of letters to her. 

She is a tiny girl with three ponytails with the hair woven neatly into braids clipped on the ends with plastic ducks, bears and hearts. They always match her clothes. Her mother puts the clear plastic balls around the base of the ponytails as a cover to the colorful rubber bands  that hold the evenly distributed hair in place. Her scalp is clean and shows only the light glisten of the blue hair pomade from the small rounded pyramid shaped container. It smells kind of sweet. I think it's called bergamot.  I remember the scent and when it hits me now, I feel comforted like I did when I sat in that hard plastic chair while my mother put those parts and braids in my own hair. 

She is slim and wears pants with elastic in the waist because otherwise, they will fall off of her tiny frame. Her thin feet struggle to carry Mary Janes because they are made for wide little girl feet. Hers are narrow and long. She will grow up being reminded that she has big feet; feet too big for her body. They are actually the perfect feet for her frame. She will figure that out eventually. 

She hears that her hair is too nappy and that she should have had hair like her mother instead of like her father. She chose - as if it were scientifically possible - to have her father's slim physique, his hair texture, his smarts and to some extent, his coloring. She did not choose any of her mother's lighter, brighter attributes. She is reminded of it at every opportunity. Each time, the words take a little scrape of her protective skin as if for a strange sort of biopsy. She will develop a thicker skin, but it will take a long time to get there. 

I wrote her a stack of letters.  I wrote a stack of letters in an attempt to thicken that skin. I wrote to her to help her remember herself before she decides that forgetting herself is the most viable option.  It is not easy to repair what is not yet broken but hindsight is a valuable gift. 

I wrote her a stack of letters on handmade paper. Pink paper. The pink paper with the visible fibers. The pink paper which I put in a drawer with a cotton ball soaked in my signature scent. That way, she will know what  I smell like. She will know that the scent is not merely perfume but it is part of her older self. She will be able to taste the scent on the back of her tongue where the scent leaves her nose and travels toward her throat. She will remember me though she has not met me. She will see glimpses of her future self and become something even better! She will hear and read and smell and experience that love that she longs for. She will be swaddled in it. 

I included audio clips for her ears to take in the sound of my voice. I drew pictures and included photos so that she might find herself in her future self.  She will see, taste, smell, hear and touch the future. She will find herself inextricably tied to the love of her older self. She needs that love. That will resolve many of her issues. She will find that there is a kind of love that supersedes everything else in life. she will learn how to experience love and also to give love. She will teach others how to love as well. She will become the model for loving and for love itself. That's what the world needs and she will be equipped to give it. I love her already. She is here and she is becoming and she is loved. She is loved in ways that cannot be described just yet. She is already being perfected in love. Love of self. Love of others. Love of life!!

I love her enough to tell her about herself so that she can become more of herself. That’s love. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

In my room (part 1 - I guess)

I wrote this a while back and I think this may be a reference to the same child so you may need to read Motherless child to get to know her before you read the tale below...until there's a book, there's the blog...

I walk over to the industrial sized window and see the sprawling green lawn interrupted by the path of red bricks leading from the sidewalk to the front door. The flag is undisturbed in the still air. It lays limp against the pole as if the concrete in the base of the flagpole has seeped up the pole and into the fabric of the flag itself, rendering it motionless. The sun is on the other side of the building now and the glow replaces the glare as it does every day around this time. I am in my room with the two of them once again.

One is a quiet child. The often averted eyes are propped wide open and drink in every word of the day's lesson. This child will often have or offer the correct answer to a question even when there is no “right” answer and occasionally when there is no question. This child is tender of heart and embarassingly generous. She shares what she has with anyone and often with everyone -  sometimes giving more than what seems possible or even reasonable.  Her math is such that after long division she always has a remainder for herself and the portions need not be evenly divided. Her kindness is offered to all but finds those in need most intuitively and quickly. 

Today, she is sitting quietly in this room. She has not spoken in days. She completes her work and her body is present but her soul is not with us. Her eyes do not sparkle today and her round cheeks wait patiently for a smile's lift. Though she has given many, she has none leftover for today. She imagines the special power of invisibility. I saw her and she knew it because she knows that I have special powers too. I smiled at her and when she tried to return the smile her eyes curved downward into tiny crescents and the tears began to fall.

The tears poured from her vacant little eyes and soon her cheeks were soaked and her nose began to run and her breathing became increasingly difficult and she must have forgotten for just a moment that anyone - that someone was watching. I picked her up and wrapped my arms around her small body and her little girl legs dangled in the air and her shiny black shoes rested at the hem of my skirt. Her tiny limbs encircled my neck and her hands clasped together and she held on for dear life. With her face in my neck and her tiny grief-stricken body in my arms, she retreated into this safe space. 

She knew that her tiny patent leather shoes could fall to the ground and her feet would not be soiled because I would not drop her. She knew that she was being held by someone who would not let go even after the embrace had ended. She wept and her tears streamed down my back and soaked into my shoulder and her sweet sticky snot and slobber pooled on my neck and strangely bonded her to me in globs of mucus - the stuff of life. She wept until she was too tired to cry anymore. Drained by this wave of grief, she relaxed in my arms and her breathing was less ragged and labored. With one last halting and heaving breath,  she lifted her face from my neck and after releasing one reddened hand from the life grip of the other, she attempted to wipe her face. 

I leaned over my desk and lifted the box of tissues until it was within her reach. She pulled one tissue from the box and when she had drenched every fiber in that tissue, she pulled another from the box and continued to wipe her face and blow her nose and clean her mouth until she had dried off her red, puffy face. She then pulled two more tissues and blotted and wiped the residue on my neck. She was hesitant to look at me with her glassy eyes but when she tilted her face, as children often do, to check for my reaction, she found that my face was open and reassuring, loving and accepting. I offered no rush to return to what we called normal and the safe space that she had found had not morphed into a trap which would press her to hurry up and get back to normal.

 I put my hand on her head, covering her tightly braided pigtail and her left ear and pulled her into my chest so that she could hear my heart beat. I managed to sit on the edge of the desk and pulled her little girl legs across my lap and cradled her in my arms and begged my heart to beat for her until hers would slow to a normal pace again. I begged my lungs to breathe for her  until she found her inhale and exhale rhythm again. I cradled her with one arm and shielded her with the other. I whispered a prayer over her and waited until she was ready to re-enter the wait for the next wave. 

Even she knew at this tender age, that grief was not a one time visitor. She now knew that I would be there to welcome it and to sit with her as she hosted grief's painful stay.

(to be continued)
Reverendsister's Ink (c) 2014 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A story - Part 2

Continuation of a story - part one...

I laid there grateful for the dirt floor that effortlessly supported my weight. She wrapped each of my feet in a warm dry towel and then reached into a small brown bowl that looked like a hewn out coconut shell and retrieved a tiny pair of scissors. The golden bird shape on the handle reminded me that these were her embroidery scissors and though they were dainty and beautiful, they were also incredibly sharp. She slid one blade under my pants leg and with one swift motion, sliced the fabric from my ankle to my hip - revealing the bruises and scars that my legs had acquired this time. Tree branches and brush had not only snagged the fabric but also grabbed at my flesh, revealing small red dashes and dots that looked like morse code screaming SOS from the surface of my skin. 

I was glad to feel the cool air of the room grazing my skin. I could not see what she was doing but I felt the warm poultice that she placed on each bruise and scratch and I knew that the healing process was as intense and effective in its work as my adversary was in her process of the elimination of me. She repeated the process on my right leg but hesitated when she saw that there was a gash just above my right knee. I had heard the arrows whizzing past my ears and was able to avoid them but this one came unexpectedly and though it seemed to merely graze my leg, it actually tore a chunk of flesh from me. 

I remember when it happened. I felt the heat of the pierce and when I looked down, I saw that it had not lodged in my leg and so I assumed that it had only nicked me. It wasn't until later that I realized that the wound was so deep. The fabric of my pants and the thick weave of my socks had absorbed the blood that gushed and clotted, so I did not stop to notice or tend to the wound. I heard her weight shift as she reached back into the coconut shell for a scrap of fabric that looked like a large teabag. At some point, she must have brought a basin of water and a towel into the room because I heard the trickle of water into a shallow container as she squeezed the water out of the towel that she used to wash the wound. It frightened me that I felt nothing as she touched my raw muscle with the cloth. She washed around the wound and carefully cleaned the damaged tissue before affixing the small tea bag looking thing over the wound.  She applied the same paste over the entire surface of the fabric and onto the skin around it. She held her hands over the area and whispered something I could not understand and as the paste dried instantly, there was a moment  that felt like she had applied open fire to the wound but as quickly as it registered, it passed and a warming sensation radiated from what had once been an open flesh wound. I knew that it would not take long for this broken flesh to repair itself and return to its original state. She whizzed the small golden hummingbird beak across the rest of the fabric with a deft hand and was able to remove the rest of the fabric from my hips and waist. She quickly assessed for damage and finding none, covered my legs in a soft blanket while she prepared for the next steps. 

Although my eyes were closed with the weight of fatigue, I determined that she was praying and things were brewing and healing. I felt her hands on my belly and I felt the inside parts joining themselves together and healing again. I felt things repairing themselves. I felt my heart pushing against my chest cavity as if it might explode right out of my body. My heart began to race as the blood rushed to heal the injured parts. I never noticed that what I thought was sweat collecting on my back was actually blood. I had scratched out a whole chunk of skin when I fell from the tree branch that held me but for a moment. I saw the ground rushing up towards me and I was able to brace for the impact but not before the branch tore through my clothes and lacerated my skin. I never felt the cold air rushing past the skin that flapped open because I was focused on making it to a safe place. It's funny how the body will compensate for things by distracting you with other things. The blood collected in the shirt and clotted almost instantly, saving me from bleeding out. The strap on my bag held my jacket closed, I guess, while I was making my way to safety.

With her hands on my abdomen, she whispered words that I could not comprehend and then laid her hand on my sweaty forehead again. She gently stroked my hair and let her hand rest on my shoulder where the hair tucked neatly behind my neck. She cradled my neck in her hand for a moment and prayed again and I felt my heartbeat slow to a gentler, less frenetic pace. I felt the cool air of the room blow across my collarbone as she began to unbutton my shirt and expose my skin. I am sure that she could see inside of my torso and chest right through to my heart.  Her hands were cool and steady as they passed over my chest and abdomen searching for internal injuries. She had the ability to find places that were damaged and begin healing them immediately. She had always been able to find the internal bruises in my body and healed them with just a touch of her hand. 

Lying on the floor with a blanket over my bare and battered legs, I heard the sound of water  bubbling and boiling and splashing against the sides of the hot copper kettle. Effortlessly, she rose from her crouched position next to me on the floor and moved into the kitchen to pour the excited water over the loose leaves in the brown cup that resembles a bowl with its wide bottom and generous diameter. I heard the clink of the plate as it rested on top of the cup while the leaves steeped in the hot water. I can already smell the aroma of the tea wafting into the room where I remain motionless on the floor. I felt a blast of what seemed like ice water rushing through my veins and I realized that it was just the chill that accompanied the healing fever. Small beads of sweat gathered again on my forehead and I felt the change in temperature as my warm skin was suddenly cooled by the moisture that attracted the cool air in the room. The sweat began to run down my face and I felt it gathering along my spine as my shirt absorbed the moisture and clung to my back along with the blood that had been clotting all along. I felt the throb of healing's heartbeat in my leg where the patch was securely attached to my skin. I wondered what else she would find as she continued to work on my aching body. I remembered the smell of the woods and just as quickly as the memory tried to stake a claim in my mind, I felt it racing away again and in its place, there were children's songs and nursery rhymes. This is the drift in and out of consciousness...I know it well...

She returns and kneels at my side and I hear her exhale gently and once again, I feel one hand on my abdomen and one on my breastbone. Before she proceeds with the ritual, she examines my abdomen and my arms to check for more severe damage. She must have returned with another bowl of water and another cloth for my face. I feel the cool water and the soft texture of the towel on my face and though I am drifting in and out of consciousness, I manage to press my face into a small smile of gratitude as she wipes the sweat and grime from my face. I am grateful. 

to be continued...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Resolving the Corporeal Contradiction

Yesterday, I was in the sanctuary listening to a sermon that was incredibly powerful in its simplicity. In a sermon entitled "In Practice" (, Pastor Callahan explained, or rather reminded us of the physical and spiritual importance of baptism and communion. I am not here to recap much of that...because you just need to watch, listen to, receive, and live the sermon for yourself. I am thinking about a conversation that I had just 24 hours prior about the trauma that the body tends to remember. I live in a body that remembers physical and emotional trauma and from time to time, serves up reminders in the form of incapacitating headaches, insomnia, aches and pains, and various other physical maladies. It's unfortunate because I don't always treat the physical symptoms for what they actually are. I mean, who treats unresolved grief with Advil, right? 

I am fortunate, in that I don't have trouble with movement. I mean, I am not the most graceful and coordinated person on the planet (or in the pew) but I have a pretty good range of motion...for a woman of a certain age! (I get points for still being able to do a pretty good cartwheel and a perfect round-off!) As I listened to the sermon, I heard the screeching sound of brakes and the two thoughts crashed in my mind. The same body that throws toddler hissy fits in the form of insomnia and migraines is the same body that went down into the water as an act of demonstrating my decision to follow the One who had indeed lived, died, and returned with all power in His hands. This corporeal contradiction was wrestling with the thought that these same limbs that reach towards heaven in an act of worship are the same ones that fall limp at my sides when I can't take life's pressures anymore. These same hands that hold the communion wafer and cup are the ones that held my aching head just 24 hours earlier. These same legs that walked down the aisle when I decided to join this particular body of believers at the corner of 10th and Wallace streets are the ones that collapse under the weight of the unresolved grief that they carry from pillar to post every day. These legs that bend at the knee for prayer also bend at the knee when I find myself in fetal position because I cannot navigate the raging waters of the day. 

This morning, I remembered the words of a woman who encouraged me to participate in the dance ministry of the church to which I belonged at the time. I don't think she knew that I have deeply ingrained body issues (which I mask with red lipstick and cute shoes to draw attention away from the middle ground) and I had a hard time relaxing into...well...real time confession, since I just stopped and realized that my shoulders had crept up to my ears in a well known gesture of fear, insecurity and tension, let's just say that I have a hard time relaxing. We would warm up with an unchoreographed time of "just moving in whatever way we felt led". That healed me then and continues to heal me now. I often wonder how it is possible to be such a walking contradiction - literally. Then, I remember to "just move" and I remember that I am not merely the sum of my experiences but I am also made in the image of the Divine. We waited for and celebrated for the One we call Emmanuel - God with us - but sometimes, I forget that God is not only with me but in me. 

When I remember my baptism, I smile and I am encouraged to remember that I have been and continue to be transformed. I remember hearing "take me to the water, take me to the water, take me to the water, to be bap-tized" and I remember the splash of the cool water. I remember the billow of the white robe and I remember wondering if that cap would keep my fresh press and curl intact. I remember my pastor smiling at me as he brushed the droplets from my face with his hand. I remember feeling incredibly loved and welcomed although I had been an active part of the body of believers for my entire life. I remember imagining the sight of angels rejoicing as I came up out of the water and walked into the arms of a deaconess who embraced me in a huge white towel. Even in the midst of the corporeal contradiction, I remember that embrace and I remember that I am always embraced in the cocoon of God's love as shown in the actions of God's people as I live out the strenuous and often painful work of being transformed. 

When I take communion and remember the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, I also remember that in this, there is an ASSURANCE of pardon and I am encouraged to live as if it is so...because it is so. I feel the wafer dissolve in my mouth and remind myself that not only is God's name safe in my mouth but God must be safe in my mouth and body because I promised to make that the dwelling place when I accept this gift of a broken body.  As the wine passes from the edge of a plastic cup into my mouth and down my throat, I remember that the blood that was shed for me fuels the change. Even when my shell feels weak and inefficient, there is a reminder that what is inside of me will regenerate what is on the outside. This act resolves the corporeal contradiction because when I feel like I cannot...I am reminded that I can. 

When I remember that God is not only with me but in me...I move. I live, I move and I have my being, and when I move, it is an act of worship. Movement is not just an exercise to maintain the physical body that I have been given. In these simple acts of worship, movement is an act of exercising my right to live life abundantly and when I move in worship, I exercise my faith and exorcise the demons. Fear of movement is replaced with fluidity of movement. Every movement is not an act of joy but the nature of movement is that it allows me to be fully where I am in one moment and then, when the body and mind are ready, transform that moment into the next one. This morning, I stretched the tired muscles that did not get the proper rest last night. This morning, as I knelt to pray, I heard the popping and creaking of body parts that have been at work for 44 years. I am not discouraged by this. This morning, as I worship with every movement, every gesture, every keystroke as I type this entry...I am not only exercising the corporeal gift...I am the embodiment of a Christian practice.

Go and do likewise!