Happy. Wealthy. Awed.

TinaLBPorter:

leavesThis. This is what I love about blogging. This is a re-run inside a re-run, the bulk of which was written nearly 9 years ago for a column I wrote for the Post-Tribune. I remember that day, watching those leaves, like it was yesterday. But I don’t remember what I wore to work just yesterday. What matters doesn’t always need to be written down, but when you do, it not only matters … it lasts.

Originally posted on Long thoughts:

Today is a work-at-home day, so I was allowed to watch my youngest as she waited for the bus.  I stood on the other side of the window, in my bathrobe, holding a less than steaming but terrificly delicious cup of fresh-roasted Highlander Grogg, watching her.  The trees in the front yard were/are shedding their leaves rapidly this morning, a steady shower of orange, red and gold.  The big ginger cat sat at my feet, his tail twitching as he, too, watched the leaves drop from the sky.  Oh, he wanted to wrestle them, I saw it in his tail.

This scene reminded me of a column I wrote two years ago.  I found it and share it with you now.  I continue to be awed (and odd).  Enjoy your fall day.

October 30, 2005 

There is something about the fall that just awes me. I usually feel odd…

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Today, a prayer, I think

Originally posted on Long thoughts:

Okay, God.  I’m listening.I sat in the sun and ate dumplings yesterday and the wind blew over and through me, much as it did that day I stood on a ridge near an old, old battlefield.

They are all old battlefieds, aren’t they God?  All the spaces we inhabit hold the old and new battles, the seen and the unseen. Those battles between classes, between races, between lovers, between parents and children, bosses and workers, even between friends. Those interior battles, too, I see, within the shifting, temporary walls that hold me in and in place.

The wind is the same and it holds that which binds us one to another, when we look, when we listen, when we feel. The sun warm on my face, the wind lifting my hair, the taste of plum sauce sweet on my tongue–you have my attention. And I thank you for offering me…

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A god of lesser things?

TinaLBPorter:

So, my sister saw my earlier re-blogged post about God and noted that she’d had a dream that God was named Margaret. Then I see that I’d already given God the name Eugene. In any event, lots of things have changed since this post, including I now have 3 daughters who know how to make a bed.

Originally posted on Long thoughts:

Can it be that I have a 12-year-old child who does not know how to make a bed?  Oh, yeah, she is my child.  A Gemini, too.  Bed-making has never been an issue for me–and yet, when I do make the bed, when the sheets are all clean and cozy, well, there’s just nothing better, right?

So, we washed her sheets and I left it to her to make the bed and she comes out and asks, “Do you have to be a mom to figure out how to put these things on the bed?” She indicated she was having more trouble with the mattress cover than the sheet.  So I go in to help her, and I’m showing her how to ease it over one end, pull toward the other then, well, you know the drill, I’m sure.  So I’m in the midst of showing her and I say…

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“Can I Pray for You?”

TinaLBPorter:

More from the vault …

Originally posted on Long thoughts:

So, I noted in my last post that I’ve been under a black cloud the last few days.  It’s been a rough patch here, and, as if the death of a friend/mentor/church leader and my father’s illness weren’t enough, I had an old wound rend open without notice.  You know, when you are vulnerable anyway and then a past grief finds its way into your heart all over again?  I think my grief immunities are super, super low right now.

And then, this morning, as I worked at home, the phone rang. It was my neighbor, wanting to invite me to an event.  In declining the invitation, I spilled it all out all over the place on her.  Here’s where I am, here’s what hurts, here’s what happened all those years ago, blah, blah, blah.  We shared similar tales of similar woes, and then she felt moved to say…

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The mess of righteousness

TinaLBPorter:

I spent the day reviewing old blog posts–feeling a bit melancholic, perhaps–and am reblogging some to remind myself of where I’ve been.

Originally posted on Long thoughts:

Yesterday was a mess in so many ways and I won’t detail them all here.  But the day’s messes left me wondering: What are we owed?  When we choose a church community, when we live in a neighborhood, when we live as a family—what are we owed?

At one point in this day that seemed chock full of mess, I had two kids in the car who were angry with each other.  One because she is the middle child and she did, quite frankly, get the short end of the stick when it came to birthdays this year.  The other was the oldest child, whose birthday it was, but who has never quite figured out how to be inobtrusive on other people’s birthdays. They were bickering back and forth because one was upset because she got hosed on her birthday, and the other because the other one was making her feel…

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On doubt, faith, and God’s cell number

TinaLBPorter:

I just came across this post today, lying in my sick bed with that same fluffy cat across my lap and remembered that the house phone rang this morning and it WAS a four-digit number, but the phone I grabbed died in my hand before I could hear anything.

Originally posted on Long thoughts:

We planned on sleeping in a little on Saturday.  We silly humans who make plans.  And the cats say “ha!”  My big fluffy tiger cat sat by my closed door and whined loudly for attention at the crack of 7:00 a.m.  I grabbed my pillow and then him and went downstairs to the couch to try to find a few more minutes of sleep there, with a cat purring upon me.

When I fell back to sleep, I had the weirdest dream.  I was out, at a party or something, and my cell phone rang.  I looked down to see who would be calling and all I saw was four digits … 2 7 7 9 (I think).  I answered tentatively, “hello?”

“Hi Tina, it’s dad,” came my father’s voice through my ear.  Distinctly my father’s voice. Not his timid, little-boy, end-of-life voice, as we came to call it. No…

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The Itty Bitty Living Space

I don’t want to rush in and comment about Robin Williams. I want to take my time as I roll his death around inside me–inside my head, inside my heart, and all around in my soul.

It is too much. He walked me through my life. Just like the first time I saw Steve Martin, the first time I saw Robin Williams on Happy Days, I knew I could not get enough of this man. As if there ever was enough of him.

Apparent suicide.

We don’t know yet for sure, but as soon as I heard that he was dead, I made the leap. I remembered reading that he had recently battled his addictions again.

How hard this life is. How hard it is to navigate.

How lucky we mere mortals had stars like him to light and lighten our way.

RIP, dear Genie, who has finally escaped this itty bitty living space.

8/12/2014: Updated to include the artwork created by Disney that so captured what I was trying to articulate here.

Manifesto

(Because Audrey asked for more verse)

I shall eat when hungry
sleep when sleepy
move when weary
seek beauty when weighted down
   by the hugeness of the world

Where do I stand
in the midst of not just darkness
but depravity that hollows us out and leaves
   not even a stench, or a whiff of what once was,
   but soul-less-ness?

How do I bring myself to the front
and hold myself accountable?

How do I wage not war
   but resilience in the face
   of hope-less-ness?

Like those tulips that rose
through this winter that 
   ended finally not in spring
   but in May flurries
   and frost warnings

And still they rose.

High and hope-filled
stamens billowing with curiosity.

And will you
  dear friend
   who lives within my heart
will you
    rise and meet the day

with beauty
with soul
with purpose

These days are small and short
and we are young
and must bear witness
Backs as straight as they can be
while the sun beckons our petals

to open

with strength, grace,
   hope
     beyond, with, and without
         reason

Hope

Because

Hope 
    will
          rise

Grace … or something like it

My go-to music on my drive to-from work is usually Mumford & Sons–mostly because I can easily tell Siri to “play Mumford” and get at least an hours worth of soul-soothing or fast-driving tune-age. But the lyrics also require me to confront the concept of grace more often than I ever have in my life.

I’m not a theologian, nor a minister, nor a student of the Bible nor of other religious texts. More unfortunately for the context of this piece, I do not consider myself a Christian. I do, however, consider myself to be a religious person, one who can get behind the concept that a group of people can bind together to accomplish things that are good for the common purpose as well as for the individual. I also recognize that people can and have used religion to bind together to destroy great things or to do great wrongs.

Here’s my dilemma about the concept of grace (and I gratefully extend an invitation to those who wish to correct my understanding to do so): my dilemma is that if grace is the gift we did not earn and do not deserve, wouldn’t that, in essence, make us all more tender-hearted toward those in need of that unearned gift?

I have been granted grace in my life–people hold doors (metaphoric and otherwise) open for me all the time that they might not hold for others and often times I know it is not because I am particularly good or deserving, but because I am white, middle-aged and have a clean driving record. I’ve had grace extended to me not only in the mercurial, day-to-day understanding of second chances, but also in the large spectrum of understanding that I truly have not earned the grace of living in a country that is not currently and consistently under siege. And then there’s the grace of being loved, wholly and fully, despite my flaws.

What I don’t understand and would like someone to explain to me is: can you be a Christian and opt out of the concept of grace?

You praise God and say, “there but for the grace of God go I,” but then you close borders and opportunities and second chances for others. Is it possible, then, to be Christian? I’ll ask in another way: is it possible to follow Jesus, claim him as your Savior, and then be hard-hearted to those who not only don’t have bootstraps but wouldn’t know how to wear a boot if it was handed to them?

I know I’m mixing policy with doctrine, but since that is the norm now, I would like to know how a religious group that says they follow the teaching of Jesus can just say “no” and “no” and “no” again when everything I know of his teachings was to say “yes” to those most in need.

When I say I consider myself religious but not Christian, I am not rejecting the teachings of Jesus, nor of the power of believing in his teachings. What I object to is the doctrine of Church leaders who bend the legend in order to meet their small needs. It is so frightfully difficult to care for the needs and rights of others–of other people whose lives will not impact ours, directly–but as I understand it, that was what Jesus called on others to do. We do it with love in our hearts and anger in our soul so that the Kingdom of God can be realized here on earth. We do it for high, exalted reasons as well as for the low and selfish reasons, but we extend grace because some day we will need it to be extended to us, to our children, to the children of our friends.

So, I ask the question again: can you be a Christian and opt out of the concept of grace?

Because I know it is possible to opt out of Christianity and still believe in grace by other names. You can believe in second chances, and the hope that, given opportunity and access to it, great things are possible. Great changes in individuals and in communities. I know it is possible, but there has to be the ability to imagine it to be so.

I believe in the power of grace and in the power of love, but I also believe that these, alone, will not transform a world so greatly in need of a moral imagination that binds people together willingly and with purpose: to nourish, to clothe, to shelter. It takes hard work and a willingness to be wrong and be corrected by someone who understands the concept of grace, someone who not “but for” but because of the grace of God, can help lead us all on, toward the Kingdom in which we already live.

What I learned this week

Here’s what I learned this week
as I was walking my feet to nubs
back and forth and forth and back:

Stark white walls can be a canvas
inviting to the artist
as they consider
layering color over dreams
if only in their mind’s eye
and not actually on the walls …

Or white walls can be barriers
distancing
distracting
implicit “don’t”
explicit “don’t”

Clean and tidy is welcoming
but perfect is a myth

We are all in this together
except for those who aren’t
who distance themselves
by work
by study
by importance
or by
class

We are all in this together
and still
we walk, wheel, scoot, or crawl alone

What I learned this week as I
moved
in and out of
public and private spaces

is the importance
of a baseline understanding
neat and clean takes work

from everyone

I also learned, as I tried
to throw away cut flowers
who insisted on losing their
petals all over

Shedding them willy nilly
like the clumps of fur that show up on IMG_1529
the floor each morning from
nocturnal cat play

when I am trying to clean them up!

I learned that sometimes
in the process of cleaning up
you make BIG MESSES

Know what else I learned?

(that I wish I knew when my kids were littler
and when I was little to medium-sized?)

Here it is:

Messes are okay

They indicate that people and beloved pets
and even beautiful cut flowers that die
slowly for our pleasure
have been here and
experienced something with us

And that something is     life.

And guess what else I learned this week
as people needed and pulled me
with them to places
I hadn’t been in some time?

I learned that I’d rather live in the smudgy-walled
messiness
of my tidy life

than to have the perfect blank canvas
that holds but does not
reveal
the work of living
with others.