very much alive

“don’t mourn that which isn’t dead,” his voice whispers through the trees.

i’m walking in the woods, talking with God.

i catch the runaway sentence and cling to it like a child with a kite.

i’d been mourning mum. her brain tumour.  “but she’s a new creation,” he tells me in the secret space of prayer. “i’ve made her a new person.”

that afternoon we sit, mum and i, in our lazy boys, staring out her large glass windows, watching spring dance across the lawn.

“God told me not to mourn for you today,” i tell her, hesitantly. “he said he’s made you into a new creation.”

i’m hoping this will encourage her. she’s been quietly petting the cat. slowly sipping her tea. everything is an effort today. even sitting.

she looks at me and smiles with her blue eyes and pink cheeks. “i’m glad he told you not to mourn,” she says. “i don’t mourn for myself.”

we quietly mull over the moment. she nibbles a fig newton. then, “i get sad,” she says. “but i don’t mourn.”

and i think about the difference. it’s important to let ourselves feel sad over the loss of abilities and health. grief frees us to celebrate new life. but we cannot mourn that which is currently happening. that which is alive.

“and i’m very much alive,” she says. mum’s eyes sparkle and i watch her toes tap against the air to the music. and i know it’s true. i just need to believe, even on the bad days. God is doing a new thing.

the art of silence

she teaches it to me, this art of not speaking. of simply being. she sits with me, and is still. silent. doesn’t need to talk. sometimes she hums, or pets the cat, or picks up a book to read. and sometimes we talk. but mostly we simply sit. together.

i find solace in the empty folds of time. in the comforting blanket of quiet. let it drape over me. it’s sweeter than music. purer than honey. within it, i find the power to create. the mysteries of my soul begin to unlatch, unfurl.

silence lets me tune in to the sounds that matter: the frogs croaking on the pond; the songbirds, calling to their mates; the rustle of new leaves; the groan of the earth awakening under spring’s gentle touch.

i crave it. this art. and so now, i let go of the need to speak… the temptation of words. and i rest, in silence.

yellow-rose nostalgia

My friend walks the streets at night, looking for sex-trade workers. She wears tall leather boots and a long black coat. On her lips, dark red lipstick.

The workers look like ordinary people. Because that is what they are. Some are just girls, with freckles, shirts stuffed with Kleenex and eyes too wide. Some are old, girls’ mothers pretending to be young, stuffed inside skirts too tight. Others are plain-faced, ordinary. Easily forgotten.

They stand alone on a crowded street. Stretched out like wares for sale.

My friend approaches each of them with a yellow rose. Pulls it out of her coat like a gun. They’re startled, for a moment. Take the rose tentatively between chipped nail polish fingers. It’s been so long. For some, it’s never been. They’ve never received a rose. Aren’t sure what it means.

“It means friendship,” my friend tells them. One at a time. They’re suspicious. Smell the yellow petals, and something flashes before them. Something bright, and warm. A life they’d long stopped dreaming of. A life they don’t believe they deserve. And all of a sudden, they’re young again. Little girls holding long stemmed roses drinking deep the promise of good things to come.

A car honks. The sound crashes into their nostalgia and they find themselves, once again, on a dark street corner with a guy leering out the window wanting to buy their skin.

My friend slips into the shadows. They hesitate, look back.

She nods. Disappears. Some run after her. Some drop the rose and climb into the car.

Chinese parkas and inflated Cheerios

I’m standing in the middle of a storm holding a box of Cheerios reading about how good they are for me. The wind whips at my skin. I feel myself wake up. Listen to the storm rage against the machine which is society.

Meanwhile General Mills is taking over the world. And I’m left standing, wondering what to believe anymore.

The wheat-y o’s taste stale in my numb mouth.

Someone walks by, hands me a parka, “To protect against the rain,” they say. The label says ‘Made in China.’ Why can’t we make our own parkas?

I shrug. Slip it on. The rain slaps against the flimsy material which moulds to my skin and I begin to scream: “Take it off!” But my skin is the parka, and suddenly I’m turning plastic inside and out while stuffing my face with cereal full of lies.

Tiny o’s which seem so innocent. Like little mouths, gaping at the world.

Suddenly I’m surrounded by people handing me a house to live in, electric lights and soft beds and refrigerators which hum and eat up the world’s resources. Soon I can no longer feel the rain or hear the wind rage against the machine which is society. I’m protected by these man-made lifesavers which remind me of inflated Cheerios and I’m floating… waving goodbye to everything which made me feel yucky. Convicted.

I sit at my kitchen table. My parka hangs dry on a plastic knob from Home Depot. I dip my spoon into the tiny o’s and hear them crunch, dying quietly under the masticating force of my jaws. I turn the box away so I don’t need to see the label ‘General Mills’ and distract myself with the games on the back.

“These are good for me,” I tell myself, and suddenly I feel really comfortable. Life is fine. There is no storm. How can there be? I can’t feel a thing.

a spring-time love affair

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oh springtime how i love you with your curls of yellow sun,

your burgeoning blue skies and your carollers which serenade the morning in songbird lilts and lulls.

let down your hair, come! take a walk with me along your trails of winding wood. see the way the buds bleed pink then peel away, green. watch the frogs leap and splash. hear their throaty salutations. breathe in deep, new life. fresh laundry smell strung along clothes lines far and near. pinks, purples, whites and browns, linens–lined up to dance.

now, let’s wait for each flower to unfold. petals soft, supple, like a baby’s skin begging to be kissed.

hear the strollers, the bikes, the children in the sun. see them laugh, watch the freckles pop from their faces. see the pigment turn golden, brown. smell the bbqs, the bonfires, the marshmallows on a stick. hear the lemonade drip into tall frosty glass.

and be. just be, my spring, with me.

all the time in the world

her eyes are especially bright today.

she grips the coffee mug as if it’s her lifeline. dad spoons yogourt into her mouth; tells her quietly about the number of goldfish he spotted in the outdoor pond that morning. mum doesn’t hear him. i pretend not to listen. it’s a private moment.

he leaves, and i help her up. she toddles forward in her long jean skirt and blue sweatshirt, tucked in snugly. mum focuses intently on shuffling forward, while holding my hands. then, we reach the stereo.

classical music.

it’s been playing this whole time, but this is the first mum’s noticed. she stops, begins to sway. bobs her head. sings random syllables with her mouth. her eyes get brighter. we dance. take this moment to celebrate. take this moment to be. together.

as if we have all the time in the world.

easter bunnies and road trips

really? is this the best we can do?

i unwrap a foiled chocolate. let it melt on my tongue. try to remember how this blissful pleasure relates to Jesus’ gruesome death on the cross.

i can’t even make it through Lent. i vowed not to complain for 40 days, but that became too hard.

i woke up on good friday, thought, ‘today we drive to ottawa to celebrate easter.’ that was the extent of my reflection on what God had done for me, that blackest of fridays, 2,000 years ago.

it all came home to me sunday afternoon at a 3-hour African church service. i was there with my sisters. we listened to a preacher who jumped up and down in excitement that Jesus was alive. that we were alive in him. we watched as he grew sad over our lack of enthusiasm. as his eyes lost their shine. and for the first time, i felt like weeping.

really? is this the best i can do?

away with chocolates and easter bunnies and road trips. i want to know the power and resurrection of Jesus Christ, my savior.

(do i know what i’m asking for? and do i really mean it?)

in daddy’s arms

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his big cheeks are pink like balloons. his eyes scrunch into little lines. lips open and a rush of sadness pours out like water from a tap. an endless stream…

no amount of patting, reassuring or pacing can cure the sorrows of this two-month-old. i sit, watch my sister in law patiently hold, wait, for the tears to subside.

and when they do: “he does this every night,” they tell us. these new parents with the shiny eyes. “he spends all day absorbing sights and sounds, and by nighttime, he’s overstimulated. needs to release it all with a good cry. being a baby can be quite exhausting.”

being an adult can be, too.

how do we release? how do we free our minds, our souls–clear our palettes, so we can digest more the next day?

such is the haven in a long walk. sitting outside under night skies and letting the blackness ink down. watching the stars, dance. remembering the universe is bigger than us. remembering life isn’t just happening here, but everywhere. remembering He has a bigger plan–one too big to absorb in one day.

and then, letting go. letting Him, hold us. falling fast asleep in daddy’s arms.

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Jesus is for Losers

do we know what it means to be foolish?

to be last, not first?

to be scorned, ridiculed, mocked, because of something we believe?

no. we don’t. we blend too well. we build churches which appeal to hundreds of thousands. we’ve gotten rid of pews and put in lazy-boys and we think the pope is God and his decision is final. we wear our cross pendants and occasionally pray (never on our knees; that would hurt, knobby-ligaments on floor). we criticize the liberal, appear religious on sundays and mock those who outwardly sin. “i at least keep my sin under wraps!” we think.

have we forgotten about the pharisees? about Jesus’ contempt towards those who parade themselves?

have we forgotten his love for sinners? his love for those who realize they’ve screwed up?

yes, we have, in this cliche-wrapped christianity which will never save us. we’ve forgotten–Christ isn’t cool. He’s for losers. and only He can save us. the man in the gutters with the other discards. the man who hangs with the homeless, the drunks, the prostitutes, the homosexuals–anyone who’s an outcast. the man who loves everyone we despise.

so rather than assuming we deserve to have a say in global government; rather than getting all uppity about this law and that, shouldn’t we stay focused on the gutter? on the rejects? because we are, after all, one of them.

bird’s-eye view

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i like to sit in my wooden chair. stare up at springtime’s bare branches. black stripes against blue sky. black stripes dotted with green where life is poking through. a bird glances, beady-eyed, down. we look–him at me, i at him. then he flaps his wings and flies, and i think: how liberating. to feel the sky beneath you, the sun on your back. and then i wonder, do all trees look the same from above? do all people look the same?

it depends how high you go. slip far enough into the atmosphere, and we’re all dots. insignificant moles on the earth’s surface.

yet God knows the number of hairs on my head. his home is higher than any bird could ever fly, but somehow, he sees us all. every teardrop. every dreadlock. we’ll never escape his loving bird’s-eye view.

i close my eyes. whisper, thank you.