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Regular readers will remember my obsession with the spiders that inhabit the windowsill of my bathroom during the summer months. Every year, three Charlottes set up shop: One in each corner and one under the window handle. And every year, I wonder about interfering in their lives.
I’m a neat freak. It makes me uncomfortable to allow spiders to just hang out and do their thing, littering the sill with the corpses of their prey. On the other hand, I’m not fond of any creepy-crawlies, and the spiders keep those to a minimum by ensnaring them upon entrance to the house. I generally live and let live. And then came the conundrum known as Big Boris.
Boris, another spider, but perhaps 20 times the size of the petite Charlottes, made his entrance several weeks ago, positioning himself above the web of the spider in the left-hand corner. I felt that a takeover was imminent. Always one to root for the “little guy” (or girl), I thought about eliminating Boris before he could do any harm.
But I’d completely misread the situation. Boris disappeared one morning, leaving several limbs behind. How had the threat been neutralized? I’ll never know. Apparently, left-corner spider was tougher than I thought.
And then I realized, “If I don’t know enough to stay out of the business of spiders, what right do I have to question God on how Godself handles the affairs of this world?” Yes, it can be easy to look around and think that God somehow misunderstands what we need…or is too busy to care. That is a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation. Just as those spiders don’t need me to interfere, God does not need my opinion on how the world ought to work. All I’m seeing are the Big Borises. God sees the much, much bigger picture. God is on top of things, no matter how it might look to us, busily building our own little webs.
Since the Boris incident, the spiders have abandoned their webs. Perhaps it got too hot on the ledge. Today I gently wiped down the window frame. But I left a few strands of webbing, just in case. Life will go on, as God in God’s wisdom sees that it should. It’s God’s plan, not mine, and I’m okay with that.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. Mark Twain
I’ve got an Ad Blocker program running on my laptop, so instead of seeing seven ads on the page every time I open my email, Yahoo shows me the opposite of a smiley face. A frownie face, you might call it.
It seems to be saying, “I can’t show you ads you don’t want for products you don’t need! How could you do this to me?”
Doesn’t it seem like somebody is always trying to sell you something you didn’t ask for? And that so many are hell-bent on telling you how to live your life?
I saw an ad for a medication the other day in which the narrator says, “Don’t stop taking this medication unless your doctor tells you to.” That stopped me in my tracks. The doctor tells you what to do? Of course, I’ll listen to my doctor’s professional opinion, but – call me crazy! – I’ve always thought that, in the words of George W. Bush, “I’m the Decider.”
And then I got myself riled up when I read this article about a couple being sued to stop them from growing vegetables in their own front yard. “Aesthetics and uniformity are legitimate government purposes,” said the lawyer for the plaintiff.
Sometimes I think we forget that we have choices in life. So much seems decided for us by the powers-that-be that we might get out of the habit of thinking for ourselves.
Optimism is a choice and, no matter what the obstacles might be around you, it’s worth the risk to try something you’ve never done. Sure, you might fail, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know what you might have accomplished.
Back to the great American author, Mark Twain, for the final word: “Lord save us all from old age and broken health and a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms.”
I have to admit that I sat and stared at the sign for a minute or two trying to absorb the meaning. I had just pulled into a place in the church parking lot. In front of my car was a sign. “No Trespassing.”
I’ve talked to someone, so I get why the sign is there. Teens from a neighboring apartment complex use the congregation’s pavilion as a party place. The members of the church don’t much care for this so up went the sign.
But it also means that people who park there for church related events are greeted with this sign – get lost, go away, we don’t want you here! – before they even speak to anyone. It doesn’t send the best possible message.
The sign was in sharp contrast to the night’s Bible study. We discussed the end times, Revelation, Heaven. Sure we read the verses about the pit of fire where sinners remain in torment but we also read about gold and jewels and giant pearl gates. But the verse that really surprised us, mainly because we know we’ve read it but none of us remembered it, was this:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them…’” (Revelation 21:3, New Revised Standard Version)
Not people but peoples. The gates to this new city are always open. Anyone who repents of their sins can enter. Are you of the chosen people? No problem. Not of the chosen people? Come on in. All peoples will be God’s.
That’s a pretty amazing message. Everyone is welcome as long as they are willing to shed their sin. And the sign that you’d find there?
“The gates are open. Come on in. You are welcome here.”
“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, God calls a butterfly.” I’ll confess; I never much liked that quotation. It’s a little too neat, too pat. Tornado wrecks your house? Think of it as an opportunity to start over, to pare down your life. Fired? Consider it a chance to do something new and exciting. Yeah, right.
I have a tendency to sink into melancholy, Poe-like, after something distressing occurs. I’m not proud of it. But what lifts me up again is not so much opportunity or “looking on the bright side” so much as allowing time to bring something else, something new, into my life. It can be as small as a letter from a friend. Whatever it is, it breaks the surface tension on my melancholy and allows me to come up for air. I can’t force it. I can only wait for it. Yes, waiting is hard. But it goes by slightly easier knowing you’re not alone in doing it. So, at the risk of being as trite as whoever it was who penned the quotation at the beginning of this post, I offer the following:
I saw a blue heron, midstream standing
stick-legged, watched it dip, beak wetted,
wrangle a fish, throw back its head.
The fish wriggled down its gullet.
This was not the plan of the fish.
But if it ever looked at the sky,
thought even once what if,
it may be surprised — buoyant even —
at its newfound ability to fly.
Well, by now you may think that I’ve crossed over into crazy-cat-lady-dom with yet another post about my catpanion, KitKat. And, yep, you may well be right.
But, you know, I’ve really come to admire his absolute autonomy. He doesn’t:
- Wear a watch
- Punch a clock
- Perform on cue
- Pay taxes
- Wake up with bed-head
In fact, his hair is always perfect, except for those mile-wide whiskers, which would irk the heck out of me if I had them attached to my face, and surprise the heck out of the cashier at the grocery store. And nothing surprises Marishka!
In short, KitKat does his own thing.
Why then, I wonder, isn’t it possible for our feline companions’ overlords (let’s be honest – in truth, servants) to live in the same way?
Doesn’t it seem that so much of our time belongs to other people? And that our money, even before it comes in, is already spent?
My point is this: when do we get to do exactly what we want to do? We designate specific days to honor the people we love: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, etc.
I’d like to propose a new holiday: “Soul Re-charge Day.” Put yourself on your own calendar. You can’t take care of anyone else if you’re continually depleting your own reserves. If you’ve got vacation days at work, take a mental health day for yourself.
Even if all you can carve out is ten minutes of bird-watching (a hobby shared by KitKat, mind you), those moments of repose can really make a difference.
The Good Book doesn’t say, well, maybe, someday, you’ll have a chance to fill your own cup. No, it says, “This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
That passage is in the present tense. This is the day. Be like a cat and do your own thing. (Whiskers and catnaps: optional.)
The week leading up to Father’s Day has been unsettling to put it mildly. Last weekend, I was on retreat. The abbey has no televisions, no telephones and wifi only in the library which is open about 7 hours a day. Sure, I could occasionally find service if I wondered around staring at my phone but I decided to go with the spirit of things. For approximately 48 hours, my cell phone was nothing but a glorified clock.
It also means that I had no clue what had happened in Orlando until after I got home. We were out picking up dinner when I saw the news. My son had to explain to me what had happened.
This was followed by a week of blogs and ads about Father’s Day. What to cook. What to buy. The ten best things to grill. After my stay at the Abbey and then Orlando, it all felt . . . trivial. No, I’m not saying my husband, father-in-law or father are trivial. But this? It was all about being Pinterest-worthy. Not about being real.
So how are we spending our weekend. Friday night, we went out for Father’s Day dinner. Yes, two days ahead but it also meant that we didn’t have to cook after work.
Saturday we are going to a family reunion. I’m really looking forward to seeing my father-in-law, the uncles and the cousins.
Sunday we have church and we’ll be taking a treat over to my dad at his apartment. It won’t be particularly Pin-able but we’ll be spending time together.
When God directed us to honor our fathers, I don’t think He had a day of lavish spending in mind, a day of gaudily wrapped gadgets or ties. If you’re into those things, that’s fine. We’re more of a fishing and pick up trucks kind of family. But overall I think it has more to do with listening and spending time together. Breaking bread and sharing a cup. Spreading His warmth and love and grace. What better way to celebrate our Father than to do as His Son did among the peoples of Palestine?
Right after 9/11, I did a strange thing — I wrote a funny Halloween story. It was part of a contest, sponsored by our local PBS radio station. I wrote it because it occurred to me that horror had suddenly become such a routine part of our lives. We were living horror every day. What we needed, desperately, was laughter. My story was later read on air…but that’s not the point. The point is, here we are again. And I haven’t got anything funny to say.
It isn’t funny that LGBTQ persons have been attacked in what was, for them, a safe space…perhaps the only one they had.
It isn’t funny that they still need safe places in this day and age.
It isn’t funny that, among the huge outpouring of love and concern over the deaths in Orlando, there are still a few bad seeds who so misread the Gospel as to believe that God does not love everyone, no matter whom they love.
It isn’t funny that no matter how many people are killed by firearm in this country, we cannot effect meaningful dialog on gun control.
It isn’t funny that I am certain our founding fathers did not mean for this to be so.
It isn’t funny that the easiest way (by far) to murder so many people in so short a time is by gun.
It isn’t funny that the NRA is happy to accept money from terrorists and the mentally ill.
It isn’t funny that someone on the “no fly” list can buy a gun with ease and that so many of us refuse to even discuss why this isn’t funny.
It isn’t funny that the idiotic hysteria of “They’re coming for our guns!” still seems to work. When has anyone come for your guns? When has that happened?
It isn’t funny that we can wait for a marriage license, a driver’s license, for the ability to buy the car we want with the options we want, but we can’t wait a single minute to own a gun.
It isn’t funny when a politician’s takeaway from a mass murder is “I told you so.”
But the least funny thing of all is that this will happen again. The US suffers more gun deaths than any first-world nation on earth — innocent people, little kids. And we won’t even stop for a moment to analyze why because we’re too afraid to. Not funny, folks. Not even a little.
I have to admit that I hung on every word of Lori’s most recent post. As a boy mom, the boy and I have had many discussions lately about the rape and the sentencing. The boy has, in fact, been surprisingly patient. Only once have I gotten a mini-lecture. “Mom, you know I know this.”
And he’s not the only one. The two young men who put a stop to what was happening saw the wrong-ness and knew they had to step in. They did this in spite of a pervasive attitude in this country that young women “ask for it.”
We also have a tendency to tell the victims of awful crimes that something bad happened to them but that it is okay. It’s okay because it is all part of God’s bigger plan.
Seriously, I do not think that at that beginning of time God said “this young woman will be raped in order that THIS AMAZING THING WILL HAPPEN.” Um, no. God loves us. God loves the victim. Yes, he also loves the rapist but that’s another issue.
God loves us but he gave us free will. This means that sometimes we make the decision to do some really awful things to each other. Fortunately we also do some pretty amazing things like see a rape taking place and deciding to put a stop to it.
By trying to write off bad experiences as God’s will, we absolve ourselves of all guilt. “God wanted it to happen. There’s nothing I could have done so I’ll just keep right on moving along, minding my own business.”
God put us all here for a reason. He gave us the will to act. It is up to us to decide which choices we will make. Some days we will make bad choices but, with some effort and the help of like-minded God-aware people, we can make more good decisions than bad.
That means that when you see wrong-ness, you need to step up, step out and speak up. God has given you the freedom to act.
What’s a girl or woman worth? Not much, even in these “enlightened” times. In Pakistan, a 16-year-old girl was burned alive for the crime of choosing her own husband, the third “honor killing” of this sort in the past few months. And here in these United States, a white, privileged rapist was handed a three-month sentence for destroying a woman’s life, and there are folks (including his parents) who think that’s too great a punishment. Reading what the survivor of this attack had to go through to effect this small punishment is like reading something out of Kafka. The presumption of innocence is a wonderful thing, but in what other crime is it the defense’s entire strategy to imply that the victim wanted the crime to happen? Imagine, if you will:
Defense attorney: So you claim you were mugged.
Victim: Yes. He took my wallet at gunpoint.
Defense: Yet not three minutes earlier, you were seen removing your wallet from your pocket.
Victim: Yes, I was paying for a purchase. I bought dog food.
Defense: So you took out your nice, fat wallet and just waved it around?
Victim: I took it out of my pocket so I could pay for the dog food.
Defense: You showed your wallet, knowing that any normal, red-blooded man would see it and want your money, isn’t that right?
Victim: No, I —
Defense: You indicated loud and clear that you wanted someone to take your wallet. You were wearing an expensive suit! You wanted someone to mug you. You enjoyed it! You smiled when my client asked politely for your money.
Victim: I didn’t want him to kill me! I was placating him!
Defense: You smiled. You gave him the wallet. And you cried “mug” once before, in 2006 —
Victim: Because I was mugged!
Defense: Yet your so-called attacker was never found. You have a history of wantonly waving your wallet around, so what did you expect? Especially since you knew my client was high at the time. Your honor, I move that we drop all charges. This scumbag clearly asked for it.
Judge: I agree.
Am I alone in seeing the absurdity of this? In what world is this okay?
I’m sure some of you are wondering what this rant is doing on a blog devoted to God and spirituality. If how you treat other people isn’t a key component — possibly the key component — of your spiritual life, then I am unsure how to apprehend your vision of God. Jesus clearly tells us that “love your neighbor as yourself” is not enough: We must love our neighbor as God loves him. Or her. We have to do better than mere human love. We are called to higher things than that.
If your faith or conscience or morality tells you that women are somehow less than men, that they are not made “in the image and likeness of God” because God is clearly a dude, it is up to you to challenge this. “Male and female, God made them.” Until all people under God’s blue sky are treated as equals, we are standing in defiance of our maker. God help us.