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God does not send in vengeful fury a plague,
but holds the hands of the dying and asks:
What can you learn?
God does not smash the dams, sending
rivers raging over home and hearth,
but heals, shields, restores and asks (oh so gently):
What did you learn?
And when God shows us the beauty of silence,
of water and air free of debris, of nature healing,
and we roar instead for haircuts and sweaty congregation,
ocean-front suntans and the snarl of traffic,
God only sighs and asks, in endless, enduring refrain:
Will you learn?
Will you learn?
Will you learn?

“How do you like them, ma’am”? the young man asked. “Do they fit okay?”

I was trying on my new glasses, and just for a moment, I didn’t know the answer to that question.

They didn’t feel like my old glasses, which were heavy, pinched my nose, and fit so tightly they etched a groove into the skin on either side of my head.

These new glasses were light, didn’t hurt my nose, and fit well without digging into my skin.

What’s more, I could see slightly better, but didn’t realize it yet, as my eyes were still adjusting to the new prescription. Huh. That’s something. I could see well enough to notice that the frames matched the blue-green color of my eyes. I still have low-vision, but this slightly-better prescription made a difference. 

“You know, I think these will do just fine,” I responded after a moment.

You can get used to things that really don’t fit or serve you well and not even realize it. It can take time to adapt to things that make your life better, like new glasses, Zoom meetings, and breathable face masks, but it’s worth the effort.

We’ve all got to change with the times, and maybe, if you’ll pardon the pun, life is all how you frame it. You can also use that fresh viewpoint to see the silver lining in a difficult situation.

When my dryer broke down, I was ready to break down myself. Not another thing that needs repair! 

Now, a month later, using a drying rack has led to a nice bonus — my electric/gas bill is lower because I’m not using the dryer. 

These days, change seems constant. But what you learn builds muscles inside you never knew you had. Keep the faith, and soon enough, we’ll all see better days.

Mother Teresa once said, “We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” This quote finds its echo in Emily Dickinson’s poem “Not in Vain” (one of my favorites): “If I can stop one heart from breaking,/ I shall not live in vain:/ If I can ease one life the aching,/ or cool one pain,/ or help one fainting robin/ unto his next again,/ I shall not live in vain.”

We may not be able to do great things now. But we can do small things that require great love: wearing a facemask, not for ourselves, but for others. Giving up small pleasures like drinking in bars or going to concerts, not because we are afraid, but because we are concerned about those who are vulnerable. Small things. Big results.

Let us take a turn at small things:
the flat of a hand signing acceptance;
the sigh of small voices that soften,
somehow, a bellow; the breath
that says, simply, “yes.”
To return a robin to the nest
is greater than, and will go further,
than any act of anger. Our times require
saints, not soldiers, and sainthood is accrued
one small gesture at a time.

So much divides us.
Our brokenness blares
in the roar of raised voices,
in deeds, once done, binding,
in blame, in bludgeoning beating blame.

Breathe.
No one is out to get you.
We are all just muddling though.
Routine will be restored in good time.
Or not. We will learn to live with change.

There was once a flood.
Tirades against the rising tide
were drowned in the noise of thunder.
When waters ebbed, the world was new.
We breathed, moved onto land, began.

[Note: The following is a collaboration between Krissy Mosley of Visionarie Kindness and Lori Strawn of Praypower4Today. Krissy’s words are in bold; Lori’s in regular type.]

In the deep dark depths
where lost things go
Outside, at the bottom of ourselves
three steps down before the sidewalk begins
where the heartbeats are faster against the pavement
I found among the roots
and angled shoots a stone
that mended the spot in my soul
where once a wall stood.
I took it.
palpitations rapid, helpless hearts are fallen
stricken — what will it be now?
to hope in vain
to pray and never get an answer
blow by blow, wave after wave,

Though all falls to rubble,
though my spine is plucked
like the pith of an orange,
but suddenly through this gush of disaster
long before I stepped outside to wonder
long before the aromatic taste of morning 

I will not fail. Faith, like all
final things, falters, falls,
loses footing, fades, then
surges, sure as the sun
we’ve been circling since
long before our tragedies
were named.
Hope’s on the scene
plunging out the dark-dank air
pressing fear into faith:
second wind’s arising.

 

purple flowers in tilt shift lensThe lockdown due to COVID-19 has changed our lives and caused hardship, but it’s also a chance to take stock of the blessings we all take for granted:

  • A steady supply of food and water (so you can make meals, eat too much, try to exercise it off and, finally, re-hydrate).
  • Paper products for the posterior (like those inexplicably sold by a family of bears on television).
  • The ability to travel wherever you’d like at any given moment (to spend money in foolhardy ways, then wonder why you’re always broke).
  • Being able to get together with friends who just “get” you (so you can split a piece of cake three ways, thus draining all the calories out of it).
  • Interactions with humans (just the pleasant ones. The unpleasant ones, not so much. Feh.).
  • Information (from reliable sources who help us live healthier and happier lives. Not from ones promoting dangerous misinformation).
  • Income (if you work and are currently on furlough), so that you have enough Outgo (the monetary opposite of income) to pay the bills.

For me, this time in our history is about remembering that all of humanity is connected. The virus is passed from one human to another, but so is compassion. People are healing each other by treating them in hospitals, volunteering to deliver groceries to those who can’t leave home, and by the kind gestures being shared online to keep us all in good spirits.

Just as you “suit up” to go to the grocery store — mask, gloves, sanitizer in hand — remember to keep that same kind of armor around your psyche. Focus on what you can do, stay positive, and leave the rest in God’s hands. 

Some feel the squish and yield
beneath their fingers and feel
possibilities emerge: a pot,
a tray, an urn. Others watch
the wheel spin with a kind of
lonely terror. Some make
masterpieces, others works
of humble worth. All are adequate.
We need not feel a need to craft
that which we cannot, with energy,
conceive. Make only what you can.
Leave the final mold to the Master.
Accept the lump before you as something
that may be, with love, of service, recalling this:
it takes the kiln’s killing heat to render us unbreakable.

We are all dragging crosses
of one weight or another.
If yours is light, look for
the burdened and take an end.
Try not to shift your cargo
onto the shoulders of another.
Just because you do not see
backs bending with exertion
does not mean great weight
is not borne. If you cry out
and no one hears, remember:
the universe has ears.
Your wail will be recorded
in the nature of the wind,
in storms, in the distress
of newly shorn grass.
It will echo down to the
atoms of loam and clay.
The biosphere must change.
Those who will not bend
will find themselves waking,
as if from sleep, to a world
they only dimly know, a place
where touch leaves ripples,
even in air, and hearts can leap
like fish across whole oceans.

selective focus photography brown cat lying over black catWith so much of the world on lockdown due to the CoronaVirus (COVID-19), many people who are not used to being at home for long periods are feeling lethargic and unmotivated.

Since depression is a medical/psychological condition, perhaps its cousin, ennui, is a soul state, and it’s treatable — not by a pill, but by:

  • A project.
  • A purpose. 
  • A passion. 
  • A place to belong.

Many of us have been “sheltering in place” for years now — some, like me, due to a disability, and others, like Lori and SueBE, because they are freelancers who work from home. This blog is an example of a meaningful project, and also one of the places I consider a second home. A place I belong.

Being at home all the time, my work is whatever is in front of me at the moment. It may be washing the clothes, which is a project unto itself, as my washer doesn’t always work properly. Will it agitate this time? No? Okay. I’ve got to roll up my sleeves and get a nice “bingo-wing” work-out by sloshing the clothes around in the water for ten minutes. It gives me a sense of purpose to know that I can overcome obstacles like this and get the job done. I’m not just building my physical muscles, but my reserves of resilience as well.

Encouraging others is part of my job as well, and really is my passion. I can even do this virtually, while playing “Word Chums” as I exercise on my stationary bike. “Just checking in on you, chum,” I’ll message during a game. “How are you holding up?”

Staying in touch virtually with each other, as well as connecting to the divine through prayer, is a constant comfort in challenging times. Remember: this too, shall pass.

Just in time for Easter — the second of my collaborations with Krissy Mosley of Visionarie Kindness. The topic was suggested by Miss Ruth, a meditation on the storms currently battering the life of a mutual friend. No matter how dark our nights are, Easter always arrives. (My words are in italics; Krissy’s in regular type.)

I see prayers being answered.
I see clouds gather like a furrowed brow.
I see miracles so clear, light blue skies before the evening
I see storms mounting, a menagerie of shades of gray
I see nations closing the gap not out of fear but faith.
I see faith fragile as an old bone.
I see a faith that crosses religious lines
Wind whipping, blowing change faster

interconnections — preceding daybreak.
than we ourselves can follow.

Purified waters in hyssop, “washed whiter than snow”
God spreads his hands and smiles.

God with blue ink, he writes upon our red hearts
Nothing is written in stone

just so you know.
God visits our tears
He wipes them with holes
in his hands.
He says to me — He says to all of man
I bear it, my child, you’re not alone.
And, in an instant, Easter morning.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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