Thursday, April 12, 2018

REMEMBERING BUD ROBERTS

Saturday, March 3, 2018

CHILDLESS EXCEPT FOR AN ANGEL'S VISIT

This is a true story with a few personal bits added from my imagination.  It fits chronologically right between the Hebrew Bible and what would eventually be the New Testament.  Theologically, it is way important. Elizabeth's son John prepares the way for Jesus who would become the Savior of the world.  But each step along the way is fascinating, including Elizabeth's husband having that scary encounter with an angel and coming out literally speechless.  Hers wasn't a virgin birth but it sure must have seemed like it might have to be in her husband's mind!  Here is my version of Elizabeth's story.

ELIZABETH’S STORY

Childless--I stopped hoping for relief from my shame.
Childless—an insult in my world, never a choice. 
Childless—a disappointment, a cause of discontent.
My husband Zach was a priest and it became his time
to serve in the temple; he was gone for several days. 
When he returned, something was terribly amiss.
Speechless, all he could do was wave his arms around
and show me Scripture I was supposed to understand.
He looked frantic and yet tender at the same time.
Life went on as it always had for a while.
Then I began to notice confusing changes in my body.
Three months later, I could not deny that although
past childbearing age, I—Elizabeth—was pregnant.

When I tried to explain the unexplainable to my mute
husband, he smiled as if he were somehow not surprised
that we, at our age, were about to become parents!
In my sixth month, we had a family visitor.
Young Mary arrived and told us her fantastic story.
When she spoke, the child in my belly leaped as if for joy. 
She, too, was pregnant and like Zach, had seen an angel. 
Because of what I had experienced, when she told me
that she was still a virgin, somehow I believed her.
Two women, one old and one young--each pregnant
after a visitation by an angel.

Mary went home to her parents and to Joseph,
and soon our son was born. John the firebrand 
(otherwise known as the Baptizer) moved out 
to the desert and called people to clean up their act. 
John said his coming was meant to prepare the way
for God. His truth telling ended in his death.  
Her gentle son, Jesus, well for a while it appeared
that all was lost.  The thieves, pimps and prostitutes
liked him better than the religious folks, and it was the
religious ones who eventually killed him.  But because
Mary and I both knew the rest of the story, 
we were not surprised when Jesus was seen 
back on the streets, alive. The news spread like wildfire!
Good news has a way of doing that.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

POETRY IN THE ALLEY

In my new neighborhood, I've just discovered an alley.  I don't know why, but I like alleys.  As a child, I grew up alongside one.  I know I felt safe there.  Not all children grow up feeling so safe.  I met a few at Juvenile Hall recently and wondered about their stories.  Did they even have a chance in this life?

My back yard used to face an alley (and the neighbors who live on the other side, and the ones who walk up and down).  I used to take this alley for granted, just the way to come home.  But there have been some memorable stories around that little piece of geography.  I looked down one day and noticed a piece of paper folded and just laying there at my feet.  Curious, I picked it up and the words took my breath away, and still do.  I think you'll see what I mean.  I'll change the names but it won't matter.  The paper was a personal note. 

It went like this:  "Momma, They did not let me out.  Call up here and do not talk to the officer that answer the phone.  Ask to speak with Ms. Gray or Fletcher.  Please don't forget.  And ask her if there is a way for you to talk to me.  Because you are unable to accept my call.  If they don't tell you any thing.  Ask them for the Commissioners number.  I love ya Ma." 

I didn't know this young person.  They were obviously in trouble and they called out to their Mom.  Why the note was discarded is a mystery.  All I know is, there's life happening up and down our streets.  All I can do, all anyone can do, is be alert to how we can take our own story and maybe offer a little bit of comfort to the frightened, love to the unloved.  Maybe, if we are Christians, we can share the amazing story of Jesus and how He will love us even if we don't think anyone else does.  

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

THEY CALLED ME A HARLOT

Seems I'm noticing stories in the Bible about grandmothers these days.  Here is another one.  


THEY CALLED ME A HARLOT

My city of Jericho was in a state of terror because of the Israelites
approaching. We had heard about their Lord drying up the Red Sea.

Frankly, our men lost their courage.  I listened to these stories; one day
I realized that this God of Israel who saved his people from

the Egyptian army must surely be the God of heaven above and earth
below. When the two Hebrew men came to my inn to lodge, I was

willing.  Just so you know, some people in my town called me
a harlot.  Curious, isn’t it, the men pay for “love” and the women

get a bad name.  Later, my God would claim my loyalty and I changed
my business practices. That night the Hebrew men needed only

a place to stay, and I welcomed them.  Soon I heard that they
were in danger so we had a little talk.  I offered to let them escape

from my window--my house was on the city wall--if they would
protect me and my family when they returned. They agreed.

 “Tie this cord of scarlet thread in the window and when our men
come back, your family will be saved.”  That’s exactly how it happened.  

Israel became my new country and my people, and their God became
my God. I wish I could say that my new countrymen remained

faithful followers of Yahweh; many false gods competed with The One.
Over and over, Joshua called the people back.  We had to decide, he said.

“Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve...as for me and my
house, we will serve the Lord.”  I had made my choice.

Oh, when your scholars do the genealogy of the Messiah, look for my
name:  Rahab.  I am a great great great grandmother of the baby Jesus

Friday, December 22, 2017

IT IS ALMOST CHRISTMAS EVE

It is almost Christmas Eve, and as we remember the birth of Jesus Christ, in our family we also will be celebrating little Eli's first birthday. I should also admit that I am thankful that I have survived the care of a little one with no emergencies and few aches and pains.  It has been a good seven months for this grandmother.  Of course, I have also had some adventures learning my way around the community, attending a writing conference, teaching a class or two, writing poetry and attending poetry readings where I stand up and make myself vulnerable to a roomful of strangers.  This grandmother is having fun.

I'm offering my latest poem in a series I hope to continue on some Biblical stories from a woman's point of view.  It has a little of everything:  another grandmother, a newborn baby and best of all, a little history and some ancestors of the baby Jesus.  So Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

MY NAME IS NAOMI
My name is Naomi .   
Mine is a true story, an important part of Israel’s history.
I lived after the great Exodus from Egypt but before
The kings.  Moses had died, Joshua too.  Also Samson, of
That Samson and Delilah story you’ve no doubt heard about.
My people had lost their identity.
When the scribes wrote about us, they often just said,
“The sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord.”
Everything changed for me with the famine in our land.
My husband moved us, myself and our two sons,
To the land of Moab, a foreign place. 
Jews were in the minority there.  After a while,
My husband died, and sorrow upon sorrow,
So did our two sons, leaving me and their two wives alone.

My sons married women who had not been taught about Yahweh,
Our God, or Moses or the Commandments.  So when I made
Plans to return home, I urged the girls to go back to their parents.
Eventually one did, but Ruth refused to leave me.  The words
She spoke to me are quoted to this day in wedding ceremonies.
“Where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge.
Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
Clearly, Ruth was now an adopted Hebrew as much as if
She were my own birth daughter. 
We caused quite a stir when we arrived back in the village.
Some recognized me but I was depressed.  I went out full but
Came back empty, I said.  The rest of the story of how Ruth met Boaz,
married him and became pregnant—well, it’s a lovely story and you can
read it for yourself in the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible. 

When Ruth gave birth to a son, my joy returned to me. 
I held him in my arms and I knew the consolation only a newborn
Child can give.  Precious as he was, though, little Obed was not
Just another baby.  Obed when he grew up became the father of
Jesse who was the father of the boy David who became king.
You may or may not know this but from Jesse’s son David
Many years later was born Joseph, the father of Jesus,
Who would become the Savior of the world.  His real father, though,
As Mary knew quite well, was not Joseph but God.  
I couldn’t see all this that was to come in the future
But little by little I did see the hand of Yahweh in my life, in Ruth’s
And now with hindsight, I see how God was working out His plan
To bless the world with another Jewish Baby. 

My name is Naomi and this is my story.  


Friday, November 24, 2017

WHY IS SARAH LAUGHING?

In my intention to try to tell the Biblical story through the eyes and point of view of some of the women and men involved, Sarah came to mind.  It's appropriate actually for it is the beginning of the Christmas story; the first Jewish family and the first boy who was announced by angels (or angelic men).  Like the birth of Jesus, there was opposition and struggle, but the babe was born in spite of unbelief and opposition.  God's purpose to bless His world would prevail.

WHY DID SARAH LAUGH?

My name is Sarah.  You can find my story in the Book of Beginnings.
I was married to Abram; he was a good husband except when he wasn’t. 
I knew that I was barren when the visions and visitations began in Ur. 
The Lord told Abram—I don’t know how—He said to leave our families.
“I will make you a great nation, a blessing,” He said, “But you have to go.”
So we packed our belongings including servants and animals and left.  
Then the Lord appeared to Abram again and said the same thing.
He would come home and tell me about these visitations and I had to listen
there in my barren state.  Would Abram have to take another wife?  It seemed
inevitable.  Next we had to deal with famine.  It appeared that God had
forgotten us.  Abram took us down to Egypt where he lied about me.
Because I was beautiful, he told people that I was his sister so Pharaoh
wouldn’t want to kill him because of me.  Well I was his half-sister
but half a lie is still a lie.  Pharoah did claim me but he found out the truth.
He was furious (they don’t record how I felt) and sent me back to my husband.

Years passed; Abram went to war to rescue our nephew Lot.  Time passed
but still there was no child from my body. A third time Abram had a vision only that
time he tried to bargain with God.  Let a servant boy from our house be my heir! 
God took him outside and showed him the night sky.  “Count them if you can,
Abram. Your descendants – from your own body – will be that many.” 
Abram told me that it was then that he believed.  I was not yet convinced.
I told Abram to sleep with my maid Hagar; she got pregnant right away. 
When she knew, she hated me and I treated her badly until she ran away. 
Wouldn’t you know, the Lord appeared to her and she came back to us and
Ishmael was born.  When the Lord came again He changed our names. His,
Abraham, means “father of a multitude” and mine--“princess.” We were far
from either identity. Then one day a trinity came calling.  First we thought they
were men, then angels. Whoever, they spoke for God.  We prepared a meal for
them and after dinner, they told Abraham that in a year they would return and I

would have born a son. Really?  Now? The angel asked, “Why did Sarah laugh?”  
I came to the door of the tent; terrified, and denied it.  One said, “No, but you did laugh.
We will return in a year, and this will have come to pass.”  At that, Abraham laughed.
Can’t you just use Ishmael?  “I will bless Ishmael,” the Lord said, but the child of the
promise shall be through Sarah your wife.”  So those angelic men left and went
towards Sodom and Gomorrah.  But the Lord was not pleased with the men there.
“Their sin is exceedingly grave,” He said.  Abraham got involved, and so did Lot, and
so did Lot’s wife. There seemed to be a great unleashing of evil in the land at this time.
Looking back, it’s as if this child was sent by God for God’s purpose to bless the
world and all hell knew and resented and resisted his birth.
One more time, we traveled only for Abraham to lie about me again.
One more time, I was taken by a king, but he never touched me.  This child Abram
knew by then would have to be mine and his, not the child of a foreign king. 
Finally, I conceived and our son was born. God does have a sense of humor.
The name the Lord gave the child before he was ever conceived in my womb?

            Isaac. It means laughter.  

Thursday, November 23, 2017

WHAT AM I THANKFUL FOR...REALLY?

This is Thanksgiving morning; I'm not cooking the turkey this year (my son-in-law is) and I'm enjoying the leisure.  Yesterday my daughter and I spent our first day away with the children.  On the way back from the zoo, we talked again about my marriage to her father, just a random conversation that answered some questions for her and brought back memories, some I would rather not entertain.  My mentor in the area of expressive writing and its benefits is Kay Adams, creator of The Center for Journal Therapy.  She wears a lot of hats:  therapist, teacher, blogger, editor of a series of books as well as an author herself.  She would say that my brain will go automatically to those bad memories and bad feelings of regret until I intentionally re-frame things.  That, fortunately, is easy to do.  It goes to the heart of who I am and it answers the question, "What am I thankful for, really?"

While I have memories of bad judgment on my part and logical consequences: eventual divorce, bankruptcy, failure in career and in relationships, this all pales in comparison to the overwhelming joy I have known in being loved by God.  How do I know this, you ask?  I know this because over and over, people have come into my life (our lives) as friends and guides toward a more fruitful and blessed life. Those who know me know that my children and grand-children are obvious joys. But what else is it that makes me recognize another dimension beyond the natural, human one?

My young husband and I had both grown up in church, but of course that is no guarantee that a child will automatically find God for herself, himself.  About a year after we were married, we ended up in Long Beach, California, where my husband enrolled at Long Beach State as a student and I got a job working in an office.  Karen and Butch and Don and Birdie will probably never read this blog, but they were the angels God sent to help Bob and me.  Birdie was a receptionist at that college when I went up to her desk to buy a stamp.  We had driven around the town and picked out a church we'd like to visit.   I said, "It has a funny sign out front (Jesus Saves) but the building is lovely, I want to visit."  Birdie and Don were members there, and it was there on a Wednesday evening Bible study that I "heard" the message that I needed to respond to God's love, to believe on His Son and invite Him into my life.  I did and that was the beginning of my life with Him.  

About that time, a piece of mail blew out of a mailbox near us; when I returned it to our next-door neighbors, they just happened to also love Jesus and they became our second angel couple, loving us and being our friends.  Over and over again, I can look back over my life and see how God's love has been expressed to me through people.  It's not that we always made good decisions or never had to struggle.  Sometimes it was traumatic.  But always either through reading the Scriptures (how God typically speaks to His children) or through people I happen to encounter, God shows up to teach, guide or encourage me.  And that is what I am thankful for, really.