Sunday, May 8, 2011

For Mother's Day, I'd like to introduce you to Mary, my mom.


How was it, Mary, as you flitted past cornfields and felt humidity form on your young ivory brow? 
Your Bellaire and laughter ringing exuberance despite quiet and unspoken stories, a little girl’s confusion ~

the rending of  twins, the black shadow of the Summers, the grit of watching your mother’s decline.

How did you emerge, lovely and soft?

He saw you then, he said, floating across the high school lobby, a brunette beauty with elegant gate.  
Decades cemented in the shady grass of Kansas.

Where did it come from, your courage to board the train, cinching the belt on your slender waist, holding the fabulous hat against your beautifully coiffed black hair?

A girl, an adventure, mad love.

How was it as your world expanded into safety and harbor ~ just in time to join the world’s efforts against tyranny? 

Send him off, Mary.  Find your way.

How was the mountain world of science and parties and energy and the fragileness of peace?   Did you feel the tender tremble of a shy girl midst the cackle of socialites as you sweetly and gently won the hearts of good and true men and women? 

                You always won them, Mary, without trying.

How did you weave it – smells of tacos, lasagna, cookies and drop doughnuts and the creeping despair rising from a body too often betraying your love of life? 
How did you manage it – riding the crest of exuberant waves, inviting all who would join to go to Disneyland, while the creeping dark beckoned, whispered, wanting to steal.

But you, all resurrection.  Surfacing, shunning grave clothes, determined to live.

To find life in sangria and grins and money slipped into grandchildren’s pockets. 
“Shhh,” you would say, as if repercussions were earthshaking for such indiscretions. 

To find Jesus in hummingbirds, cattails formed as décor, golden paper mache crèches, filling your home with smells of glue guns and Christmas.  Heels and pearls around card table bridge. A thermos of hot chocolate as your brood tromped out the door on the frigid New Mexico trek for the perfect Christmas tree.

Land of Enchantment, adopted surely.  Splendid, you said, the drama of light and sound.  “Shhhh,” you said, as finches found your backyard offering, framing your world of Weeping Willow, Russian Olive, Wild Roses, Columbine, Raspberries and Cherry Pie. 
Vinegar in the crust. “Shhh, no one knows.”

Do you want a cookie?
                No thanks, Mom.
You want a cookie.
                No, not really.
I know you want a cookie.
I know what you want.

So often wrong, dear Mary, about cookies and meatloaf.
So how did you know, with perfect intuitive acuity, what we did want, in the tender longings within each of our hearts.

Inextricably woven ~sometimes a spell, sometimes a symphony ~
                fierce determination rose in your eyes at
                a hint
                a rumor
                of your children’s harm.

                Lioness Mary, crouching and sly.

When disgust hit your face, all knew to run, duck and cover or face the wrath of Mary against
                Frank Sinatra
                Scantily clad women
                Mockery for an incorrect pronunciation of Espanola
                Doctrinal arguments

                Some things you did not need.

Where did it come from, your propensity to worry, to hold up the world through the energy of fret?

How good to see your shoulders ease as flickering light marbled granite stone through the moving leaves of aspen, and blue spruced hillsides.
This looks just like Colorado!” your exclamation before your heart’s trip to your Jemez Mountain Mecca.

How did you believe?
                How did you love.
                                How you did live, Mary.

Your life lingers, 
as the dove lights with kind eyes,
as the hush at dusk.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Kiss of Justice

The Kiss of Justice

Osama Bin Laden was killed yesterday.  Some semblance of justice has come for the victims of 9/11.  We all, in some nuanced form, have been victimized by Al Qaeda, and we have all yearned for some form of justice. But like most of you, I have been sitting with my thoughts, considering the ambivalence I feel around this heroic, sobering, epic event.  

Predictably, because my career and calling through the years have brought me into the lives of those who are victims of other forms of evil, my reflections are filtered by them.   My thoughts have run to a handful of people I’ve had the privilege of knowing, all of whom have stories of shame from sexual abuse, but whose lives hold particular power because of what they have determined to do with their own hearts.   I’ve known scores of individuals with sexual abuse stories, but the particular folks who come to mind today are those who, over a crucible of time and often excruciating interaction with the gospel,  have begun to yearn for the redemption of their abuser or abusers.  For Amy it was her father and several members of the church where he pastored.  For Joann it was her uncle and brother.  For John it was his grandmother.  For Eunice it was her trafficker.  I watched as each of these people succumbed to a force deeper than their pain, higher than their cry for justice.

But that’s just it.  They had to cry for justice.  Or better said, they had to cry for justice first.  Some of them had to go through the actual justice system first, watching as their perpetrators were incarcerated, or waiting for justice to be metered out on their behalf.  Had they ignored this process, as many who suffer harm choose to do, they would have greatly diminished their own dignity, their own worth.  Their countenances would have a passive, detached quality rather than the strength of presence, the solid light which comes from acknowledging they are an image bearer of God, and that image was not meant to be harmed.  Harm me and there is a price. The weighty beauty I see on the faces of these people is partially there because they have allowed their hearts to rise in the holy fire of justice, in resonance with the heart of God when he says things like:

“It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin (cause them to doubt). – Luke 17:2

Millstones in the ancient near East could be several tons.  This was a severe judgment, worthy of Navy Seals or Special Forces.

Or, “I will test you with the measuring line of justice and the plumb line of righteousness.
Since your refuge is make of lies,
A hailstorm will knock it down.
Since it is made of deception, a flood will sweep it away.”  Isaiah 28:17

God, in this manner, is very much okay with himself.  He does not apologize for his sense of offense, or his fury.  And a certain strength and beauty comes to our face when we join him, when we acknowledge the fury within our own hearts when we are harmed. 

But the beauty in these people, truly, also comes from their response to the more difficult task.  Each of these dear people found the strength from within that fire, from within the burning, to relinquish all rights to the dissemination of that justice.  They have let go, trusting their hearts’ care to a more trustworthy judge.  

“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  ~ Romans 12:19.

Because of this, they live in a freedom very few of us ever know. It is a deeply dignified freedom.  It is not whiny, self aggrandizing or gloating.  It is quiet, strong, fierce and saturated in a love beyond them.  It is divinity in its most raw form.

It is the ‘competing’ truths, equally found in the story line of scripture, positioned together like breathtaking acrobats navigating a tension filled wire, which have set these people free.  Free to love.  Remembering this today, I could acknowledge my gratitude that at least one source of true evil had been stopped, yet hold it with a hushed awe that does not gloat over the demise of one’s enemies. 

In light of this, something else struck me this morning.  I share this gingerly because I don’t want it to be heard as a political comment as much as a comment about the longing we have in our hearts for strength to guide us through moments like this, through the complexities of justice and mercy.  There is a grounding voice in the psalms which delightfully exclaims, “Mercy and Truth have met each other.  Justice and Peace have kissed. (Psalm 85:10).  There is an equally grounding voice in the New Testament which delightfully invites us to search our own eye for a log before we can see clearly to remove another’s speck (Matthew 7:3).  How powerful would it have been for us to be led by those voices yesterday?  How much more deeply dignified and powerful we might be as a people, if our response was not to the proclamation “Justice has been served,” but to the sentence:

“Justice has been served.  And today it has not been served to us.”

So as we allow ourselves to feel the weight and beauty of justice realized, let’s also hold the reverent acknowledgement that we feel dissonant because we were never intended to navigate evil in the first place.  Evil is here, we must expose it.   But only as we search for its activity within our own behavior, attitudes and thoughts can we move toward it with the purpose of inviting those trapped within it.    Midst our glee, let’s reach in to the deeper, truer place within us which longs for all to obtain redemption and mercy.  Let’s sorrow that any must be snuffed out in order for the world to gain a bit of realigning.   And like the people I remember today, let’s hold ourselves with the dignity that flows from the heart of God – the burning, holy, justice fueled heart of God which perpetually answers his own justice with a love which pours out mercy instead.  And let’s long for the day when justice will no longer be our cry.  I really, really wish we could have been merciful. It wouldn’t have honored the Story.  But our wanton glee does not either.  Somewhere in the middle is a place, a chapter of the Story when justice and mercy kiss.  And only when justice and mercy kiss do we comprehend Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”