Saturday, October 27, 2012

A 100% Return

His uncle offered him a deal:
lend him $10 for the night,
and he'd give him $20 in the morning.
A 100% return.
He had already offered the deal to my suspicious daughter.
She had refused to take it.
She was not going to be taken in by a sweet-seeming deal.
"I don't know him enough to trust him," she told me.
But Isaiah is more inclined to take a risk,
and more willing to take the word of someone he trusts.

"If he is honest in what he is offering,
and he can be trusted to keep his word,
that's too good a deal to pass up," I advised.
He thought about it for a minute,
and then went and got his money and handed a ten to his uncle.
And then everyone waited to see:
would he really double his money?
To his uncle's credit, he kept his word.
He had told him, "I am a Christian, and I am not lying."
In fact, he made Isaiah sit down and write a contract for him to sign,
signed it, and then paid him back about twelve hours early.
He told him, "Sometimes being willing to take a risk pays off."

Trusting the One who always speaks truth
is a worthwhile investment.
Normally, I would advise my son against these kind of deals.
Just trusting someone's word is pretty risky
in these days of phishing scams and banking scandals.
But I believed his uncle would follow through,
and I thought perhaps it would be something he pondered in the future.
And maybe he would remember it,
and take a step of faith one day,
trusting the word of Him who promised.

"...God, more abundantly willing to shew to the heirs of the promise 
the immutability of his counsel, did interpose by an oath,
that through two immutable things, 
in which it is impossible for God to lie, 
a strong comfort we may have 
who did flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us, 
which we have, as an anchor of the soul, 
both sure and steadfast, and entering into that within the veil..."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

All I Ever Got

"All I ever got from them was love.
They made no difference between us and their own kids," she told me.
She was talking about her aunt and uncle,
who took her and her brother in when they needed a home.
"They've always been like that," she said.
Becoming family to people who need one.
She went on to tell me
about the many strays she and her husband took in over the years.
Kids who had been on the streets, and didn't have anywhere to go.
Her husband died when her youngest was fifteen.
Alone, she kept taking kids in.
Her grandmother did that, too.
I knew a little of her story from her cousins,
who spent years living as siblings under the same roof as children.
I've seen her in the family photographs, tall and smooth-haired.
She's seen too many sad things,
but she smiles and helps others who hurt.
We keep looking at each other.
"You look like your mother," she tells me.
I see my great-grandmother in her cheekbones, and her dark eyes.
I was recently given copies of so many old pictures.
Pictures that show my sister's resemblance to my great-grandmother,
and that seem to have come alive in her.
And I see her uncle in her eyes, too.
I can hear my great-aunt's voice in some small measure when she speaks.
And I even hear how it passed down partly to my aunt.
And those eyes... like my great-great-grandfather's sister's.

She tells me stories decades older than my memories,
stories that fill in a little more family history.
I learn about her and her children
and grandchildren
and parents
and grandparents
and great-grandparents.
The ones I have seen in the pictures.
She tells things that they felt the pain of,
but she has her mother's humor, and makes me laugh.

I was afraid it would be uncomfortable.
I haven't grown up knowing her, and I am not an at-ease conversationalist.
But she talked about people I know and love,
and she knows and loves them, too.
And she saw them giving long before I did, and imitated it.
"I don't know what would have happened to me if not for them," she said.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It Will Change Your Life

"If you will change this one thing about how you operate,
it will change your life:
throw garbage in the garbage can."

That is what I said as I sorted and sifted more miniscule bits of tin foil,
broken plastic toys,
used-up glow sticks,
old band-aids,
ripped paper,
bent needles,
pencil sharpenings,
and other debris from the things he actually loves,
and the dirty clothes stuffed in containers.

"Do you see how much work it would have saved
to simply throw trash away once you knew it was trash?"
And it strikes me: this is a good plan for my life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

High and Low

I could be doing something important with my life,
instead of living out the normal --
feeding, sleeping,
working, playing,
going, staying,
fixing, and correcting.
But then I read:
"Do not set your mind on high things, 
but associate with the humble."
And who is more humble than a child?
Their self-importance does not stop them from dancing
when the music plays,
crying when they hurt,
eating when they are hungry,
even though they might get food in their teeth.
When I give them gifts, they wiggle in delight,
and let their faces share the joy with me.
They don't hide their drawings
to save themselves from criticism.
They leave their scraps of poetry littered through my house,
instead of shoved into a binder
in the back of a private shelf.

Perhaps it is for the important people to say,
"I could be wiping someone's nose right now,
or coaching them through using a toilet.
Why didn't I take that chance
to read a book to a five-year-old when I had it?
I could have had conversations about crayons and Play-doh
instead of these mundane philosophies
I have occupied my time with.
My life has been wasted in high places,
when I might have learned more
tying shoes,
and helping people out of their jackets,
and putting lotion on rashes,
and lying on my stomach watching ants,
and rubbing my hands on the bark of a tree,
and folding underwear."

Monday, October 8, 2012

Call me Mara.

She had worked all her life in service to her family.
She birthed those sons in pain and blood.
She packed up her home with her own hands,
and followed her husband out of the drought.
The famine.
Out of the homeland and its inheritance.
They left it all and moved away into Moab.
There in a land not her own, she fed them.
She clothed them.
She took care of them when they were sick.
And then her husband died,
and she had to lead alone.

She began to look forward in hope from all the leaving and the loss,
when her sons were old enough to marry.
She found them wives.
Moabite wives, yes.
That hadn't been her dream.
But these were nice enough girls.
One day soon, maybe the loneliness would fade.
There would be women to share the load with,
and sons who could protect them,
and make their living.
And babies.
Laughing grandbabies she could offer advice about raising,
and rock to sleep,
and pretend away the sadness with.
Maybe it wouldn't all be loss.

For ten years she hoped,
while her daughters-in-law did not conceive.
Every month at first, that hopeful excitement.
Is my grandbaby on the way?
Surely any day now...
But the day did not come.
And then her last living hopes died.

The sons she had birthed in pain and blood were gone.
Their father had led her here to this alien place.
She had no friends.
No sisters a few houses down.
And two barren daughters-in-law.
They probably blamed her.
Everything around her ended in disaster.
Everything she touched turned to dust.
But these women were past their fruitful prime,
and had a ten year record of infertility.
Who would marry them?

Her homeland had good crops again.
It came like a breeze in the market place.
Maybe she bought grain that had traveled the road from her home.
Working it into bread,
perhaps she thought about the fields her young husband had worked.
How they had built their dreams there,
and birthed their sons there,
and harvested life there.
It had been nothing but a harvest of misery for years.
She decided to go back.
She had nothing here to keep her.
Better to die among friends.
Better to cry over losses with friends.
They had known her husband,
and rejoiced over her sons' births.
They could sympathize with her.

She didn't want these poor daughters-in-law
to have the same fate she had suffered.
Bereft in a strange land.
They'd been good girls, but it was too much to ask.
Ruth, odd girl, chose the mourning.
She'd rather stay under the cloud.
It seemed like choosing a curse.
Even her words sounded like she was choosing death.

All those old friends still recognized her.
They were excited to have her home.
Ah, but they remembered her hopeful and pleasant.
They remembered her a landowner.
They remembered her a mother.
They remembered her a wife with a husband who loved her.
They remembered a woman with a future.
There was nothing for her now.
All her fruit lay rotting in Moab.

"Don't call me Naomi.
Call me Mara.
I had full hands when I left,
but the Lord has taken everything away from me.
The Lord afflicts me.
The Lord sent tragedy to me.
Call me Mara."
I've eaten bitterness, and I'm a disaster.

Aren't you glad it doesn't end there?
Because this woman with no hope
and no family
and no property
and nothing to live for
is cuddling her grandson in the last verses,
and her daughter-in-law is better than ten sons to her,
and the future she thought was cut off
is connected to the past by a different branch.
And she embraced it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Questions And Answers

 "What did God the Father do while Jesus was being baptized, Silas?" I asked.
"He opened up heaven and talked," he replied.
"And what did God the Holy Spirit do while Jesus was being baptized?"
"He sat on Jesus's head." 

And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying,  
All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. 
Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, 
baptizing them into the name of the Father 
and of the Son 
and of the Holy Spirit: 
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: 
and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. 
Matthew 28:18-20