Judgement: 1 Goodness: 0

A 1988 movie, Judgement Day, imagined two travelers who come upon a town visited by Satan once every year to claim souls. It got a two and a half star rating. Then there was a 1993 movie by the same name about a guy who killed his family to hide his personal failures and wasn’t arrested until decades later due to his apparently very effective ability to hide. Three and a half stars. The 1999 movie entitled – you guessed it – Judgement Day tells the story of the earth in danger of being struck by interstellar debris, a scientist who figures out how to stop it, a religious cult who wants to stop him, and a murderer who joins an FBI agent to free the scientist and prevent millions of deaths. Back down to two and a half stars.

Besides the happy assurance that I’m not the only one who’s not that great with titles, it appears that Hollywood hasn’t had much luck with judgement day. Oh the irony.

And here we are: here being recovering from devastating natural disasters, mass killings, exposes of major news sources, ongoing revelations of deception, and a waterfall of sexual deviance. Strike that. Sexual deviance doesn’t seem to get much negative press. Make that sexual assault, abuse, harassment, and plenty of plain ol’ boorish behavior. And let’s not forget a few souls who make false allegations, usually for money. Weaponizing whatever sin is trending detracts from very real heartache and damage of the real until it loses some of its repulsiveness.

Just when we think we’re on our way to recovery – boom! – here comes another wave. For instance, I wrote a few words of this post a week ago, never dreaming there would be so much more to address by this date. I’m not even going to use names now because the names just keep coming. It’s like the Halloween Blizzard of ’91. By the time we get to the Judgement Seat of God, even the most nosy neighbor will hope upon hope for a mute button.

Often we think of the judgement of God Almighty as something to avoid. Thinking of His hand moving or removing to bring/allow horrific consequence isn’t something that allows for peaceful sleep or peaceful thought or peaceful anything.

But the judgement with which this world is currently overwhelmed is a good thing, I think. Of course no one wants their sins – large or small or anywhere in between – being spread all over Twitter, but it gives us all another chance to say what is wrong and what is right. It helps us remember that being politically correct is pretty crooked compared to God’s plumb line. Even in the church. Even in Academia. Even in Media. Even in Hollywood. Even in Congress. Even in politics. Even in our own lives.

We don’t often think of judgement and goodness being related, but they are. We’re not supposed to stay stuck at judgement. It’s a step – a very hard, ugly crumbling step – but a step nevertheless. The next beautiful, shining, solid step is repentance. Such a good thing. A freeing thing. I love repentance. If we’re willing, judgement can bring us there.* It’s like a reset on the remote. Ready . . . click.

* It is at this point I must say something that should go without saying, but must be said because righteousness is only en vogue at certain times and situations for some folks. Sexual abuse isn’t right. Nor is rape, incest, sex outside of marriage, perversion or any other misuse of something that could have been beautiful, but has been distorted. When someone pretends to be a victim, they might hurt their target, but they surely hurt true victims as a result of diminishing returns.

*Hurry now! One of these days that step will no longer be available.

Image: pexels-photo-534204.jpeg

Who Was Counting?

He’d driven down the road hundreds of times. More, actually, but who was counting? It was funny how driving the same route, the same distance, the same speed day after day was so much a part of his routine he didn’t even think about it. He saw but didn’t see the sign posts or the dips in the road. His foot automatically tapped the break before the turns he barely noticed. It was a little like life: going through motions once carefully considered and now unconsciously carried out.

One morning, though, he’d caught something out of the corner of his eye that seemed out-of-place. He’d whizzed past it before he could make out what it was. It bothered him a bit. Not that it should. Why should some little change, some barely noticeable something or other catch his attention and hold it?

He slowed down the next morning and peered off to the side of the road, looking for whatever it was that bothered him. There. There it was. A sign. No, more like a marker. Just a small post really. With a number: 636. It wasn’t a mile marker. It was on a simple piece of wood – sturdy, but small. And each day he passed it, he noticed it until he began to notice something else. The number changed every day. Every single day the number increased by one.

He mentioned it at work, covering his unsettled feeling by making it into a joke. Everyone dutifully chuckled. Well, not everyone. An intern looked alarmed, but what intern didn’t have that look on her face at some point every day? Later, she poked her head into his office and asked if he had a minute. Annoyed, he motioned her to enter. She stood resolutely as though she’d made some important decision which she was about to announce. He looked pointedly at his watch.

“There are stories. Maybe you haven’t heard them.”

“I’ve no idea what you’re trying to say. I’ve lived enough years to have heard every story to enter your young head.”

She turned to leave, then turned back.

“It’s just – something – I don’t know why I’m telling you. It’s probably nothing.”

“And?”

“There’s a story that every Halloween someone somewhere in the world sees a sign post that keeps count of – I don’t know. No one does I don’t think. But it keeps count, and shortly after they’re never seen again.”

He shook his head and smirked. “Somewhere in the world. How well-traveled you are. What are you? 22?”

The intern’s face crumpled and she walked out.

The next day he looked at the sign. 646. He felt slightly queasy. Okay. This was ridiculous. He’d start taking a different route, end of problem. And the next day as he drove the slightly longer route, he spied the post somewhere around mile marker 10. It read 647. He took a different route still the day after that. And after that.

“You’re late again today,” his secretary remarked.

He swallowed the coffee she held out to him. It was lukewarm. He was tired of lukewarm coffee. He’d go back to his preferred path. What difference, at this point, did it make?

By the time the sign turned to 665, he’d begun to chill as he neared the spot and could feel a trickle of sweat run down his temple. Something had to be done.

The weather was turning. It always did this time of year. Like a clock. Tick, tick, tick. He felt like he was going a little bit crazy. He couldn’t stand it.

The next morning looked like twilight and a misty rain spit down on his windshield whisked away by wipers, an ineffectual remedy to persistent rain. He pulled to the side of the road and put his coat collar up against the wind. Walking over the the post, he knelt down and read the number: 666. He kicked the wood. Stupid, stupid marker. He gripped the post with both hands and heaved. It wasn’t so sturdy that a few tugs couldn’t pull it out. He pulled again. Once more should do it.

And his hot coffee grew warm, then cold.

Image: pexels-photo-561201 Maizal Najmi

First Snow Reflections

Warmth is cozier when it snows;

On foggy days light finds its mark;

Life’s winding path no one can know;

Faith is brighter in the dark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Poem: Connie Miller Pease; Image: chair-by-fire-on-facebook-these-are-a-few-of-my-favorite-things.jpg

Berries

We have blueberry and raspberry bushes in our yard. Our blueberries appear right on schedule, but our raspberries have always been late bloomers; which means that we enjoy raspberries in the fall.

I have a soft spot for late bloomers. Grandma Moses or even Moses, himself, blossomed on the downhill side of the proverbial hill. They both did the most important work of their lives after they’d passed what most would consider their prime years. But back to my berries. No matter when they appear – like the gifts God sprinkles into our own lives – early or late, I love them. I love them not just because they’re pretty, which they are; or because they taste good, which they do; but because of the way they present themselves.

It’s like a little game of hide and seek. Look under a leaf and ah! there’s a little rounded red berry. It’s a prize for your (very little) trouble. It’s kinda fun! I smile every time I pick berries. It amuses me.

Don’t you think it’s worth taking another look along your life’s pathway? You wouldn’t want to overlook something that could refresh you or bring a smile to yourself or others, would you? I suspect there are plenty of berries for the picking if we just look.

Image: pexels.com

Until The Rain Comes

I’ve been trying to eradicate Creeping Charlie from my yard. I started far too late after several years of ignoring it altogether due to reasonable excuses. Years ago I used Borax or some type of weed killer with minimal results, which tells you why I am pulling it out by the roots.

Creeping Charlie’s proper name is Glechoma hederacea. It belongs to the mint family Lamiaceae. I, however, prefer to call it “augh!”. It hides its roots and vine along the dirt or completely underneath the soil. It’s kind of pretty and smells a little refreshing if you like that sort of thing. The thing is, if you let it go, it takes over. And it doesn’t just take over, it kills anything it grows with – including plants like my thriving rhubarb used to be and grass. It’s very much like anything else in life that starts out rather innocuous- looking, and leaves us with reassurance that everything is just fine, and ends up making all sorts of trouble for us down the road. What we should have pulled up by the roots at first sight, eventually becomes death by a thousand cuts.

It took me five hours to clear a narrow strip by one fence. I’ve been out on afternoons since my initial attack and can now see some green grass. Much of it was killed by my nemesis, but some remains to hold the victory flag.

Today, I heard thunder at my back. I kept digging my fingernails under the tiny vines and roots and pulling – sometimes small bits, sometimes long vines. The long vines are the best. They help me feel like something is actually being accomplished. But they both count.

The thunder continued and a few raindrops fell. I ignored it and kept working, thinking all the while of a time in the future when Jesus will return with a suddenness that will knock us all to our knees and start our hearts beating like a stampede of wild horses with gratefulness or fear. Maybe both.

Then the rain began in earnest and I ran inside. And that, my friends, is my reminder to myself and you – if you want it – that there’s work to be done that needs to be done with all our strength because one of these days our work will be over.

Image: http://pixabay.comenlightning-thunder-thunderstorm-1845.jpg

Something Like Friendship

He would rather have been in a small river in an out-of-the-way spot, casting a fly line for trout. It was that sort of evening, he thought vaguely. A warm breeze fingered his black hair; the musky scent of dry leaves infused the night air; the sky, black above the treetops, was beginning to show a few stars, the rest hidden behind heaven’s heavy blanket.

He had always preferred the strength and silence of the outdoors to anything else. A small-time outfitter, though, didn’t make much money. He knew that, and acknowledged, too, that life held limitless possibilities.

The sound of voices grew greater and the crowd thicker as the soft notes of a piano danced outside to greet those making their way up the wide cement walkway to the hall.  It was a simple affair: an alumni dinner of a small college.  Through the double doors, Tab could see long tables set with white paper cloths. Squeals of happy recognition punctuated the steady undercurrent of voices. He hated these things, but had promised to come. He stepped inside and scanned the room for someone he recognized.

“We’re sitting over here.”

The nearby voice was inviting and familial.

Tab looked into the eyes of a tall man who was his double, aside from a twenty-five year difference in age. Max’s hair was graying at the tips and the lines in his face revealed that he was not exempt from life’s hardships, but everyone they passed hailed him and he hailed them back in a mild, relaxed manner.

Walking together they sat across from a pretty woman with sparkly eyes who was chatting up a storm with the young girl next to her.

“Tab!”

She reached across the table and squeezed his hand.

“Hi, Mom,” he said to the woman others thought pretty.

Such a thought had never occurred to him. She was always there, always making friends. There was something in her expression that told she was one who didn’t take life too seriously. Her crow’s feet were her signature, witness to an easy and ready laugh.

“I want you to meet Jessica. She’s interested in languages, too.”

This last statement was spoken with an unmistakable emphasis, and Tab caught his parents glancing at each other.

He looked into the round face of a girl close to his age. Her brown hair that hung in a blunt cut below her jaw line exactly matched the deep brown of her large, wide eyes.  She wore a pretty, delicately flowered dress. He reached out to shake her hand as she quickly put her hands in her lap.

“Hi, Jess.”

He pulled his hand back, and offered her an uncertain smile instead.

Jessica thought to herself that she had never seen eyes sparkle so. They were the color of the sea at its deepest point, and she wondered if that said anything about the man across from her.

Her mouth went suddenly dry – unusual for her. She sipped from her water-glass

“It’s nice to meet you, Tab.”

The music suddenly sounded too loud. It seemed a mere ten minutes had passed and it was time to go.

*******************************************

It was nearly 11:00 by the time Jessica pulled out of the parking lot. There was little traffic this time of night. She found herself in her room remembering little of the drive back. Quickly readying herself for bed, she pulled up the covers and stared at the ceiling, wide awake.

Beauty Walks

Let beauty drop her crystalled hand,

Its glittered touch upon the morn;

Sweetening minutes, coloring hours

Swaddling it – a babe, newborn.

 

In simplicity she walks,

Stopping here and moving on;

Bringing with her tireless watch

Mysterious knowledge yet unknown.

Image: 10400803_10153084970171112_8689363937696123433_n-osiria-rose-heavy-grinder.png

A Prayer For The Church

Our Dear Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,

We are before your throne, that throne that is higher than any other, that throne that is greater than we can imagine, and we are here to talk with you about the church. Your church.

Jesus, we’ve read your prayer – or what was part of a prayer – asking God to keep your church unified. You asked for all Christians to be unified. You intended your church to represent You until your return. You intend for your church to be your hands and feet, your mind and heart, your song and voice. You expect us to be bold and courageous and wise and righteous.

We are not.

So here we are, asking. That thin, weaselly, voice of ours will not do. It never has. Yet somehow that voice, that hesitant, faithless voice has become more and more the voice of the redeemed. We have fallen asleep. WAKE! US! UP!

We stand here, shoulders back, spine straight, voice strong, asking now – no, imploring – You for boldness in this time.

If our eyes are clouded with untruth, wash them clean!

If our minds have forgotten reason, teach us logic!

If our discipline is weak, make us determined and strong!

If our desire for You, for Your Word, for Your Truth, for Your voice has grown cold, ignite that fire! Change our lack of understanding to wisdom!

Make us, Father, not what we are, but what we should be. We have many voices, but raise us up in harmony as one church! We have many jobs, but, seen together, may those jobs be flaming candles of heaven’s intent. We have many avenues of influence, but make that influence be the ushering in of Your kingdom. Take over! We would be Your church! Your power! Your will on earth as in heaven!

Truly, truly hear our prayer. Truly, truly answer in Your might and power.

In the Name of Jesus, the Coming King,

Amen

Image: christmas-935456_960_720-CC0-Public-Domain.jpg;1247049723_c54dbb2677_m-starhttpswww.flickr.comphotostoasty1247049723.jpg

The Threshing Floor

You know how when some little speck that was floating around or, perhaps, the result of some rogue particle from something your were doing gets in your eye, it’s either irritating or killing? It suddenly it takes all of your attention whether or not you have time for it. Despite the pain and distraction, all of your attention is sometimes a necessary thing, possibly even a very good thing.

As we celebrate freedom this 4th of July, there will be picnics and flags, parades and fireworks. We can celebrate because others sacrificed. Through the heroic efforts of our American forefathers, our country liberated itself from the rule of King George III and founded a nation with representation of its citizenry in government. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor. I wonder if anyone’s hand was shaking when he signed that declaration? Those men, those women, those families, paid a steep price; a cost we would do well to consider.

They stood firm for what was right and true. Truth? Now there’s something that seems a bit slippery these days. The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence states, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. -That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Note those rights don’t come from government, they come from God. Government simply administers them. (So, as an aside here, things justly termed “entitlements” such as health care or even education are helpful and good to have, but to call them “rights” denigrates the true meaning of the word.)

Our nation has been on a journey for awhile now, traveling a twisting road of right and wrong, true and false. Words like justice, fair, right, tolerance, and even love have undergone a turn in the spin cycle. They’ve become twisted, ragged, and unrecognizable.

And, my fellow citizens, this nation under God finds itself at a well-worn place. We’re on the threshing floor where the grain is separated from the husks and chaff, truth from lies, if you will. Winnowing forks are tossing the mixture into the air where the chaff is blown away leaving only what is usable and good. I hope we get a little bit of something in our eye, even if it causes distraction or pain, and I hope that chaff in our eye draws our attention to the truth. I hope you and I are left on the floor rather than being swept away by the wind.

In 1861, Julia Ward Howe, after visiting a camp of the Union Army, wrote a poem. It was published in 1862. The Battle Hymn of the Republic says, in part: He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored and He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat.

This Independence Day I’ll eat barbecue, display the Stars and Stripes, and celebrate along with everyone else. But I’ll also be thinking: It’s great here on the threshing floor! Look! There goes another long-held assumption into the wind! Why, yes. I do see how some were blinded by this person or by that assertion; but things are clearing up now. The chaff won’t be here forever.

Stand firm for what is right and true. You’re in good company. And look up. You never know what you’ll see next.

Declaration of Independence; Luke 3:17, Hosea 13:3; The Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe, public domain; Image: Wikimedia commons; public domain 800px-Era_agrícola-(threshing_floor)

Where’s Melania Trump When You Need Her?

Images of Melania Trump have traipsed through my mind lately, along with the wish I could call her, like the besties we are, and chat for awhile. I need some fashion advice, and I doubt I’m the only one.

I’m just a mother of the engaged, but soon I will be a mother of the bride, and I have been looking for a dress. I thought I’d pass along my own (very) little advice – not to brides nor grooms, not about ceremonies nor decorations; no, nothing nearly as important or interesting; but about shopping for a mother of the bride dress.

You don’t think you need advice? Listen, I’ve discovered an entirely here-to-fore invisible population of desperate mothers of the bride/groom out there; and – to the woman – they’re willing to share their opinions, asked or not. These women who, aside from contracting a helpfully violent case of dysentery and losing 15 pounds in a week, are simply hoping to find something that will make them look like they haven’t given birth x number of times and still have the metabolism of an 18 year old. Or 30 year old. Or 40 year old.

“That looks good,” said a helpful voice where I was trying on a few dresses last week.

“I liked the last one better,” said another.

I swiveled my head. “Which last one?”

“The navy.”

Oh yes, they’re out there. One mother explained the wedding of her son was going to be casual.

“I’ve waited all these years and – casual. What am I supposed to wear?”

I shook my head sympathetically.

I was flipping through a rack at another store and looked up to someone inquiring, “Mother of the bride?”

I nodded. “I’m exhausted.”

The daughter pointed to her mother and nodded back. The mother wore sweat pants, had her hair pulled back in a ponytail, and looked like she was badly in need of a long nap.

And online? Are you kidding me? First of all, who knows how something will fit; probably not like it does on the dear soul in the picture. Secondly, how do you even know if the site is legit or is a trap set for desperate women of a certain age? Thirdly, two words: shipping fees. Make that five words: return shipping fees.

Let me tell you about online shopping. If you type in the search word ‘dress – mother of the bride’ (mob, for short – I won’t take the bait, no I won’t), you will see either dresses with the obligatory jacket or low cut gowns that look like they just got back from the Oscars. When you’re at a point where cleavage is actually a thing, low cut isn’t as exciting as you might imagine. I appreciate the jacket idea. After all, sleeves are nice for someone (I’m sorry to say it, but that includes nearly all of us) whose arms resemble a chicken’s wattle. Some of the designers seem to know this; others haven’t a clue, or run with a crowd that spends time every day at the gym, or are under the illusion that the customer really does look like the 20 year old model.

I hate to break it to you, but I don’t think Melania will be available for wardrobe consultations any time soon. You’re stuck with me. Here’s some of what I’ve learned along with a little advice. Take it or leave it:

  1. Go to some stores and try things on even if they’re not what you want. You can get an idea of how a designer (*I use the term loosely – in my world JC Penney is a designer) sizes things. You’ll also get an idea of what you prefer.
  2. You will learn to speak designer whether you want to or not. Not Dolce and Gabbana, mind you, but you will find out who the usuals are. Addrianna Papell’s dresses (who, according to Martha Stewart are the holy grail of bridal party wear) feel heavier (sequins and beads will do that) than Komarov. I loved the Komarov I tried on. It was lightweight and looked washable and like what a normal person might wear. Until I saw the price tag. Alex Evenings claims to offer the perfect fit for real shapes with materials that stretch. Gee, I wonder who they’re talking to.
  3. Take a look around discount and consignment stores, including Ebay. Pat yourself on the back for trying to save money.
  4. Look online for the designers * you like, and find something that’s actually closer to what you want than what the stores had.
  5. Do not order it.
  6. Type in the search word ‘evening gown’.
  7.  You’ll find something that might more closely resemble what you were looking for in the first place, won’t be one of the few mob patterns offered in a variety of colors, and it will cost less.
  8. Go ahead and eat the cookie. No one’s going to be looking at you anyway.