They Also Serve

My title comes from the sonnet “On His Blindness” by John Milton in which he laments that his blindness now keeps him from using what he (rightly?) considered his greatest talent: writing.  He wonders why God would give him such a gift and then block its use.  In the end he hears God’s answer:  “They also serve that only stand and wait.”

The two lessons I am learning from my experience as a writer are patience and humility.  I have not learned them yet.  I struggle with one or both daily.  Since I used to get attention for writing plays in elementary school, I have fed my ego with writing.  I was labeled “gifted” and set on the path of self-aggrandizement.  God seems to be using this “gift” to teach me that it IS A GIFT,  not my doing.  Ego separates us from God.  If we can let our pride go, we will have more room for God in our hearts.

How hard it must have been for the proud Milton to “stand and wait”  humbly.  It is hard for me.  Dear Lord, give me strength to wait patiently and not to despair.  I want to trust that it will all be right in the end.  And to quote from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,  “If it is not all right, it is not yet the end.”   Amen.

Meditation on Psalm 18:30

“The promise of the Lord proves true”

The word “proves” shows that we can’t know whether God is fulfilling his promise until LATER. It is in hindsight, after we are out of the period of desolation, that we can see God’s redemption.  This comforts me because when I’m in a low place I always feel far from God and abandoned.  I need to relax, knowing that God’s promises always prove true, in hindsight.

I am listening to a ten-hour lecture on the Rules of St. Ignatius on a DVD Miriam gave me for Christmas.  Ignatius confesses that life will be a rollercoaster of consolation (spiritual good times) and desolation (dark times).  PERIOD. However, armed with knowledge of this and of his rules, we can make the dark times shorter.  This is very helpful.  A happier life is the result.  You store up God’s love in the good times to get you through the bad.

“WHEN you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord” says the same thing.  You can’t prevent it forever; you can only turn to the Lord when it happens.

Incident at the Pink Motel (12-minute exercise at Boomers)

I was reading The Pink Motel during silent reading in the fifth grade.  It belonged to Alice Goldstein.  She had loaned it to the classroom library.  Alice had told all the fifth grade girls how good it was, and I had finally gotten my turn to read it.

Now I wasn’t much of a reader back then.  I was good at reading, but I wasn’t book crazy like so many of my friends.  I didn’t seem to be able to find books that grabbed me, until I started The Pink Motel.  I looked forward to silent reading time so I could get further into the story.

Today, though, I wasn’t feeling so good.  Mama had given me orange juice at breakfast and sent me to school though I protested I was sick.  Unfortunately, during silent reading, with my head bent over the beloved Pink Motel , all the orange juice came up and splattered over the book, my desk, my lap, and the floor.

“Eeeewww” burst out from my classmates, and Mr. Harrington, the teacher, walked briskly over, gingerly picked up The Pink Motel with finger and thumb and dropped it in the brown metal trash can by the door.

I went to the nurse, then home, and I never finished The Pink Motel. I was also never really friends again with Alice Goldstein.  Either she never forgave me, or I was never brave enough to approach her after barfing on her book.

Summer Feet (a 12-minute exercise at Boomers)

My mind goes immediately to feet when I think of summer.  When you start walking around barefoot or put on sandals, summer is here.

To get to the mailbox to mail a letter for my mom, I had to cross Lincoln Avenue.  Now this was no problem during the cooler months when I was shod in my Keds, but barefoot in summer it was a challenge.  The concrete sidewalk was cool enough to walk on, but the black asphalt road burned.  The solution was to walk on the white-painted crosswalk lines, not between them.  They felt smooth and cool under my bare feet, even cooler than the sidewalk.

If I wasn’t barefoot, I was slapping along in thongs.   My cousins called them zories, and nowadays they are called flip-flops. (Thongs are something else:).  Mom bought us a new pair of zories at the start of summer each year, usually one or more sizes bigger than the year before.  The new ones felt funny for the first week or so until they got stretched, squished, and worn, in just the right places to fit your feet perfectly.

My brother discovered that the center thong of the sandal would collect tiny rocks, sticks, and shells in the space where the rubber passed through the sole, and if he pushed the thong’s cap through the sole, he could clean out the debris into a little pile.  When we were bored in the back seat of the car or in front of the TV, we would empty out our zories to see who had the bigger pile of gravel and twigs.  The things kids will find to amuse themselves.

Meditation on Psalm 118

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone”

I want to think about the builders. Humans are the builders. God is a maker—things “come into being” at his command, but I don’t think he is portrayed building. Jesus says he can “rebuild the Temple”, but he is a human, too.

Humans built the Temple. Humans built the Tower of Babel. What does building represent? We build for protection because we are fragile (houses, forts). We build for worship, trying to honor but also to contain our God (The Temple, the three buildings the disciples proposed for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah). And we build to aggrandize ourselves (Tower of Babel, pyramids). God doesn’t need to do any of these things, so he doesn’t need to build. Builders, then, are humans.

And Builders are in the Rejection Business. They pick and choose, rejecting offhand any material that doesn’t please them. A flaw in a stone?—Out. A prophet that lays it on the line?—Beheaded. A messiah that doesn’t fight Romans?—Crucified.

Our ability to judge puts us in the rejection business. This immediately sets us against God who is in the Mercy Business. We want to throw things out. God wants to redeem them from the scrap heap and put them to good use, foundational use.

Humans like competition because it lets us choose ONE (the winner) and throw out THE REST. The rest are marvelously made, but because of the accident of being in competition with the ONE, they go onto the scrap heap. This is the way humans think.

God does not think this way. When he sees ALL he has created, he declares it ALL VERY GOOD—none of it belongs on a scrap heap. That is why he keeps sending himself to us in love, telling us we are his, we are good, we are loved, and asking us to stop rejecting all the time. When we all hear this message, the Kingdom of God will be fully here.

Dear Lord, help me to stop rejecting and to see the rejection of ME for what it is—a human thing.

Bats and Losers

Here is a five-minute exercise on Late Evening and a 90-second one on Crossing the Finish Line

Up above the tops of the tall pines, bats swooped. The sky still glowed with a remnant of blue light so we could see the bats. Before us at he center of the fire ring, the ranger was feeding a bonfire and the smell of burning pine reached our noses. I shaded my eyes from the fire to watch for the sudden flit of bats in the twilight. Sharp squeaks accompanied the swoops as the bats caught their supper of insects. The light slowly drained from the sky, bats were hidden, the bonfire ruled the night.

Never a runner, this is how I see crossing a finish line:

“Yay! Go Go Go!” people are shouting on the sidelines of the track, for the fast girls running a half length ahead of me. My heavy shoes slap slap slap on the gravel, pushing to the finish line, last to cross, forgotten

Curb, 5-min object writing

I didn’t like the exercises I wrote today, so I’m putting up this one from 4/26:

No benches or planters near the Baskin Robbins, so we sat on the curb of the parking lot. My cone was nutty coconut, pure white and sweet with huge chunks of walnuts and almonds protruding from the surface. His was cookies and cream. We sat side by side in a red zone, our knees up under our chins, licking around the cones to catch the drips. They came fast on a hot August evening in Claremont. As the ice cream shrank down into the waffle cones, the conversation turned serious.
“So, shall we get married?”