life

What to Wear?

I always wear black when I go to the movies.

So I’ll be harder to see.

As soon as I sit down I locate the nearest exit.

And then I devise the safest route for shimmying under the seats toward it.

I always wear pockets when I take my dogs for a walk.

Because I need a place for my phone.

In case I, or one of them, sprains an ankle and I need to call for help.

Or in case one of them looks adorable or the sky is gorgeous or we come upon something interesting or peculiar and I want to take a picture.

But mostly I always bring it in case we come upon someone peculiar.

And I have a plan:

  • Snap a picture of him if it looks like he’s going to attack me.
  • Tell him the picture has been instantaneously sent to icloud.
  • Tell him even if he disposes of my phone, his face is already on my laptop and ipad.
  • Tell him my family and the police WILL see it.

So he better just leave.

Now I have to figure out what to wear to softball practice.

If I should ever go to softball practice.

Because the world has gone dangerously mad.

Congressman Steve Scalise is in critical condition and I blame the hate mongers.

Remember Bill Penzey, president of Penzey Spices?

Remember the wretched e-mail he sent me last November?

Well, I wonder whether the shooting of Republican congressmen during practice for a charity softball game is what he meant by President Trump’s election unleashing “a wave of ugliness unseen in this country for decades.”

I wonder whether he would admit that his self-righteous rant, along with a host of self-righteous celebrity rants, may have incited Wednesday’s violence.

Really hoping we stop this dangerous game of partisan radicalization.

Before we all need a whole new wardrobe.

 

 

 

 

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life

Murder Down the Street

There was a line of police cars just down the street when my daughter and I headed out late Friday morning.

“I wonder what’s going on,” she commented.

We took our usual route, walking our dogs past the softball diamond and tennis courts, through the playground of the abandoned elementary school, across the basketball court, through the woods and back.

As we were nearing home a news truck drove past.

The hound was busy sniffing the base of a mailbox so my daughter and the beagle were several feet ahead when the truck stopped and the reporter rolled down his window.

I caught up just as their conversation ended.

“What did he say?,” I asked as they drove off. “What’s going on?”

“He said, ‘It’s the craziest thing, isn’t it?’ I told him I didn’t know what was going on, that I saw the police cars when I headed out to take my dogs for a walk and wondered what had happened. He looked stunned and said, ‘You didn’t hear about the car and the dead body?’ He looked like he was about to say more and then he just said I have an awesome beagle.”

“How would I have heard?”

Indeed, cocooned in our warm little nest there on the cul de sac, we were completely oblivious.

As soon as we were back in the house, my daughter googled.

At about 1:30 am a neighbor reported a car on fire behind the elementary school. When the firetrucks arrived the car was completely engulfed in flames. It wasn’t until the flames were extinguished that they discovered the remains of a woman.

The police followed tire tracks from the school yard to the house down the street, to the white house with the blue shutters.

My daughter looked up from her computer, “How dumb do you have to be to kill someone and leave the body and the car practically in your backyard?”

Two young men – a nineteen year old who lives in the blue shuttered house, and an eighteen year old who lives in Detroit – were taken in for questioning. The house was being searched.

“Perhaps you can get away with not covering your tracks in Detroit because there is so much crime there,” I replied, “but these are the ‘burbs.”

In the brief online clip, the reporter mentioned that the police knew the identity of the victim, confirmed by dental records, but they hadn’t released her name. He said she lived down the street from the white house.

Information was sparse: She had a child, a neighbor told the reporter she often sat in her car listening to the radio, she might have been ambushed…

We tried to figure out who she might be. We tried to figure out a motive. Why was a mother out in her car listening to the radio at 1 am? Was it random? Was she ambushed? Was it safe for me to walk the dogs alone?

I took a picture of the basketball court back in November when I was walking the beagle.

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The leaves are off the trees now and they are off the court, too. When my daughter, the hound, the beagle and I walked across it Friday morning, we had no idea a car and a body were ablaze upon it just 10 hours earlier.

We hadn’t noticed the charred spot.

But when the hub, my daughter, the beagle, the hound and I walked through Saturday morning, we looked. And there it was. No sign anything had happened there except for the charred blacktop.

A police officer walked toward us on our return loop. He said he hadn’t read the report, didn’t know the details so he could walk the grounds with fresh eyes.

I asked why there wasn’t more information being reported. He said they don’t want future jurors to have preconceived notions when the case goes to trial. I understand that.

“It would be nice, though,” I said, “to know whether there is a killer loose in the neighborhood and whether we are safe.”

“We’re pretty certain we have the killer in custody,” he said, “but there are still unanswered questions.”

The victim’s identity was released Saturday evening, along with a picture.

The picture looked like a mug shot.

An autopsy revealed that she died of a single gunshot wound to the abdomen.

Once her identity was known, comments on the news article painted a picture of a drug user who owed a lot of people a lot of money.

There was speculation that she couldn’t pay her dealer and he shot her to send a message. An eighteen year old shot her to send a message.

This is the sort of speculation and preconceived notions that I’m sure the police wanted to avoid.

But it is a relief to know that it probably wasn’t random.

We won’t know the facts until the trial, but whether she was a junkie going out to her car to shoot up or a mom going to her car for a few minutes of peace and quiet, it’s equally awful. Whether she was ambushed by random teenagers or shot in the abdomen by her dealer it’s equally awful.

It’s awful for the seven year old who no longer has a mom. Right before Christmas.

It’s an awful emptiness of soul that allows an eighteen year old to pull a trigger, take a life, burn a body, and perhaps throw the murder weapon into a nearby lake.

There is an outstanding warrant for the eighteen-year-old’s arrest in Detroit for a carjacking. Thank God there is that to hold him on.

I think about the bright, sweet, hopeful faces of the inner city boys I’ve met over the years – as a camp counselor, social worker, volunteer tutor, Bible teacher – and I wonder at what point those innocent six, seven, eight, nine, ten year old boys become boys capable of drug dealing and carjacking and killing at eighteen.

Lord have mercy.

 

 

 

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faith, Jesus

Feasting at a Troubled Table

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The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

It has happened a few times this summer, here, in my shady back yard.  A glimpse of sun glistening through the trees,
a brief, very brief, flicker of joy,
deep-buried joy.
Buried under an impenetrable sadness.
Not enough to spark ignition,
just a slight, fleeting flicker.

Glistening green evoking the carefree feelings of my childhood,
back when I used to sing to the sun.

Oh for childlike innocence.

Oh for a refreshed soul.

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

Last night my church gathered to pray for peace.

It felt good to do something more than privately lament the escalating violence. It felt good to publicly lament; to add my signature to the Peace Petition.

Just as our prayers were about to begin, a voice spoke up:

“I have something to say.”

I turned and saw a tall, youngish man walking up the aisle.

“You can’t drink from the cup of God and from the cup of the devil.”

I expected someone to respond but no one did. Perhaps we were all processing his words.

Doesn’t that go without saying?

The man turned, walked back down the aisle and out the door.  An elderly man in the back asked, “What did he say?”

I thought he was someone from the church whom I had never seen before until the pastor suggested that he might be someone from the community who is hurting. So we prayed for him.

And then it occurred to me that he could come back with a gun. Shoot every one of us in that small gathering. It wasn’t a fearful thought, just a practical one.  Just a practical concern for our friends at home.

My daughter, the hub and I were all sitting side by side in a pew near the front. If he gunned all three of us down, it might be days before it occurred to anyone that the friends were all alone.

There is an exit that leads to a side door a couple of pews in front of us.

I’ll dive under the pews, I thought, drag myself out the door and make my way to the Escape.

The little beagle has been known to get into things when we are away. As a result, there is nothing but canned goods on the lower shelves.  Perhaps I should start leaving a little something that she and Max can chew their way into.  Just to hold them over until help arrives.

My thoughts returned to the corporate prayers, Scripture and interspersed singing. The pastor invited anyone who was so moved to come forward and pray what was on our hearts.

My heart saw an image of the people in France, terrified and running for their lives, being mowed down by a truck.

My heart remembered what it felt like in the aftermath of 9/11.

I imagined the survivors and the families of the slain and all of France reeling as we did, wondering if life will ever feel good again.

I remembered the weight of that thick, evil veil.

So I went forward and prayed for them.

And I think I know, now, why the flicker of joy doesn’t ignite.

I’ve been holding my breath since 9/11.  I’ve been waiting for the violence to end; for the veil to be lifted. I’ve been waiting to feel good again.

But I may never feel good again.

That sparkling sun flickering gently, hopefully through the trees in my secluded, peaceful backyard seems like a mean tease.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

But perhaps that’s the way it has always been.  A feast set in the midst of the famine.

A table in the presence of my enemies.

I read an article about slain police officer Montrell Jackson. In the article his sister, Joycelyn Jackson, was quoted as saying, “It’s coming to the point where no lives matter, whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or whatever.”

She’s right. No lives matter to the enemy of our souls.

Black, white, Jewish, Muslim, Christian.  We will all have a turn.

It’s time for me to stop waiting for things to get better. It’s time to finally exhale and enjoy the blessings that are in front of me now.

Because things may never get better. Things may get worse.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Our Heavenly Father has gone to the trouble of preparing a feast of goodness and love even in the midst of this earthly strife.

It suddenly seems wrong not to eat.

#cometothetable

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

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life, war on women

Fifty Shades of Regret

Growing up you probably heard a variation of “That will rot your teeth” as you took a bite of something sweet.  But did anyone ever really explain it to you? Did they instruct you to brush your teeth after every sugary treat, or did they just lay a phrase on you and walk away? As a kid it was just a phrase, a vague guideline. But at fifty, it became harsh reality. It became me sitting in the oral surgeon’s chair, hearing his opening words: “It all started with that first Snickers bar.” Don’t get me wrong, I brushed my teeth every morning after breakfast and every night before bed. Apparently that isn’t enough.

Sometimes we need people to explain things to us a whole lot better than they do. Especially when we are young. Especially when it comes to sex. Which is why I go out and talk to kids. And which is why I am going to talk to you.

I was in Bible study last October celebrating a 90th birthday and watching a Beth Moore video. I received quite the education with my cake when Beth said this:

All sex was meant to be safe sex. All of it was. Not boring. Some of you, “If it’s safe, it’s boring.” You have to live out there in that adrenaline zone where you just barely make it and live most of your life down in a cavernous pit. I have been there, too…

What women are putting their bodies through to keep up with the appetites that are being created by pornography. I’m going to tell you something, if we can make it to 60 and 65 and not be incontinent, it’s going to be a miracle… It was not meant to tear up our bodies… Just because you are in a relationship with him doesn’t mean that everything he wants to do you need to do. You do get to say, “I’m not comfortable with that.” Even to your husband if you know that its going to tear up your body. It’s a dangerous, dangerous day when we’ve got the kind of growing need for more and more and more and more perversity. And our bodies are just getting abused and misused.

Even to your husband.

I have lunch once a year with an old friend. We used to go to the same church. Two years ago she told me her marriage was a wreck and she was contemplating jumping ship. I was very surprised. I had always viewed her and her husband as a strong, happy couple. The things she shared over salads revealed a whole different story. She told me a lot that day but she didn’t tell me everything.

At last year’s lunch she said her life was a bit better. She had decided to stay in the marriage on one condition: Her husband would have to take “no” for an answer. I’m sure my mouth was agape as she told me what he had been doing to her. When she would object he would say that it was her “Christian duty.”  After years of putting up with it, she finally said, “Christian duty or not, you’re not going to do that to me anymore.” She finally had nothing to lose and he finally stopped. I believed her when she said things are better between them, but how much better can they be with a man who would insist on harming his wife for his sexual gratification because the teachings of the church gave him the idea that he can.

This is why I keep hammering away at the church’s erroneous teachings when it comes to women.

I just hope she doesn’t wind up incontinent.

fifty shades of no

I sat in an assembly of tenth graders about ten years ago listening to Dr. John Diggs give a talk on sex. The boys were not shy with their questions. One asked about anal sex. Dr. Diggs explained that the anus is not nearly as elastic as the vagina. It doesn’t need to be: Bowel movements are never as big as babies. And because they are not as elastic, they tear more easily. Which is why AIDS spread so quickly among homosexual men – HIV is spread through blood and small tears in the anus gives the virus all the entrance it needs.

I really didn’t know anything about Fifty Shades of Grey except for a vague knowledge that it had something to do with kinky sex. The other day my daughter told me it is about S & M. She said there are Christians on tumblr who believe S & M is fine between two healthy married adults. Except, as my daughter so astutely pointed out, “there is nothing healthy about two adults who enjoy violent sex.”

Hear, hear sister! I mean daughter.

“And to make matters worse,” she said, “ I heard the guy falls in love with her at the end.”

“Oh great,” I said. “Way to feed that dangerous fantasy.”

When I first started volunteering at a pregnancy help center, I had a client whose boyfriend was pressuring her to have an abortion. After sitting with her and listening to her sob for 20 minutes, I finally said, “Joni, you don’t have to have an abortion.” My statement jolted her from her sobs. “You don’t have to have an abortion.”

Her boyfriend kept telling her that if she didn’t abort he would take the baby from her. “Why would he take it from you if he doesn’t even want it?” I asked. She just looked at me. Sometimes you have to apply a little logic.

She had followed him to our state from Oregon and she didn’t know many people here. She had written the phone numbers of a few of her co-workers – – including one male co-worker – in her phone book hoping to make some friends.  When her boyfriend saw it he pounded her head into the floor.

“Why do you stay with him?”

“Because deep down I know there is goodness in him, I just have to find the key that unlocks it. If I stay with him long enough, try hard enough, show him enough love…”

“No, sweetheart.”

Over the course of several counseling sessions I finally convinced her to reconcile with her family and return home to have the baby. Her boyfriend volunteered to drive her back to Oregon. And on the way there he tried to kill her.

I don’t ordinarily ask you to share my posts, but if you know someone who is at risk, I hope you will share this one. Or at least take the time to really explain that fifty shades of grey is fifty shades of danger, fifty shades of regret and fifty shades of incontinence.

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