Still Hungry

The apple
The manna
The barbecue offerings
The unleavened bread
The wine jugs in Cana
The food for the thousands
The last supper
The post-resurrection fishes.

God, I think you’re all about food,
About eating together here,
About hospitality now,
In the delectable real world.

But, no.
The Learned Preacher says you mean
Spiritual Food
Feeding the Soul
Bread of Heaven—
It’s all metaphorical.

Maybe he’s right.

But I’m still hungry.

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Reflection on a Dead Dog

This morning my friend Tanya posted on Facebook about a violent incident she witnessed in her neighborhood. A man was kicking his dogs with his children crying and screaming nearby. He kicked one into the street where it was run over by a car and “died instantly.” Afterwards he returned laughing to the house.

More disturbing to me were the follow-up comments by Tanya’s Facebook friends who said things like, “I would like to be the one to kick him into the street and laugh as he got run over,” “People who abuse dogs should be tortured,” and “Guys like that don’t deserve to live.”

The scenario has lingered in my mind all morning, and I feel called to reflect on it. I posted, “I am enjoined to love my enemies.” What does that mean? I certainly am not called to approve of the man’s actions. I am, however, challenged to have compassion. Father Tom said the other night that “compassion” was “invented” by early Christians. I don’t know if I buy that. However, compassion is the kind of love I think Jesus means, so I am going to explore my compassion for the principals in the story: the dead dog, the children, the other dogs, the driver of the car, the man, and the Facebook posters who want revenge.

The dead dog: If indeed the dog “died instantly,” then my compassion for it is small. In fact, the dog is better off out of a household where it gets constant abuse. Ironically, the posters seem to value the dog more than any of the others in the story and want to commit murder and torture to avenge it.

The children: One of the most shocking memories from my childhood was the day I heard my dad yell the word “Fuck” and slam the door of his Jeep, angry that he had forgotten to set the parking brake. I will never forget how ugly his face looked at that moment. He was transformed into a stranger, a monster. The children who had to see their father committing this ugly cruelty will probably never forget that day. The image of their daddy as their protector and model is forever shattered (if it hadn’t been shattered before). Whether or not they follow their father’s example and perpetuate the cycle of violence, they get my compassion.

The other dogs: I feel more for the other dogs than for the dead one. They seem doomed to a life of fear and pain. Perhaps some mature adult in the family will try to find better homes for them.

The driver of the car: I feel compassion for the innocent bystander drawn into this horror story just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I hope that he can avoid feeling guilt for the accident.

The man: Now here’s the hard one. Tanya says she can “feel sorry” for the man but not “love” him. I think she is saying “compassion” in different words. Anger can be the result of loss of control in our lives. The man had clearly lost control of his dogs when they ran away. But chances are the man has lost control in other areas: he has a low-paying job and a manager who treats him disrespectfully, his wife is distant since he has become so abusive, his kids are withdrawn or rebellious, and he has taken to drinking more than is good for him. The one place where he has always been boss is with the dogs, and today that all fell apart, too. When he ran amok, kicking the dogs, he lost control of himself. Addiction to power and control separates us from Love. We think we are God and we run the show. When the falsity of that stares us in the face, we get angry. The man couldn’t control the dogs; my dad couldn’t control the Jeep; they both got angry and ugly. I have compassion because I have done this myself many times, though not to a dog. When I feel loss of power, I get angry.

The Facebookers: For Tanya I feel much compassion because she witnessed the event. Though there may be some truth that we have become inured to violence on TV and in films, I am still shocked by violence in person. People are never more ugly and sub-human than when they are hitting each other or kicking animals. I hate seeing this side of us, and Tanya can be compassionated for her emotions and her desire to get away from there.

Some of Tanya’s friends are in the same boat with “the man.” They are angry that they can’t control the actions of others, so they are willing to act out their anger in violence. Perhaps violence was modeled for them in their childhood. It is modeled for them on television and other media. Don’t like someone’s actions—kick his ass! Also, Facebook tends to escalate emotional posts. Since you are not face-to-face with the person you are answering, you might feel free to use more inflammatory language than you would use in person. Your violent words may touch off a powder-keg of divisive replies that lead to people saying things they would never say in a different context. Also, people talk big. It’s easy to say you would torture someone or push them laughing in front of a car, but can you actually see yourself doing so?

Thank you, God, for laying this incident so heavily on my heart. I hope that my reflections are in line with your gospel. You made us in your image and you love us all, even the man who killed his dog. Only love, which you are, can heal this whole scenario, and I pray that your will be done. Amen.

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.

Reality Show

Here is song #7 for November 7.

REALITY SHOW
by Pam Bowen

CHORUS:
THIS IS MY REALITY SHOW.
I BET IT’S LIKE THE LIFE YOU KNOW
MAKING THE BEST OF HIGHS AND LOWS
THIS IS MY REALITY SHOW.

Verse 1:
Our mansion is an old house with a mortgage and a yard.
Our limos are my pickup and my wife’s five-year-old Ford.
Our daughter does real well in school and leads the FFA.
Our son is on the JV team and glad he gets to play.

CHORUS

Verse 2:
Our family fights are civil dinnertime discussions.
Our language stays away from name-calling and cussin’.
The only thing we throw around our house is parties:
We welcome friends and strangers as well as all the family.

CHORUS

Bridge:
My audience is pretty small:
My wife, my kids and God—that’s all.
Their ratings what I care about,
Loving them all, day in day out.

CHORUS

© Pamella M. Bowen

Land of the Living

This is song number 6 for November 6. My answer to “Temporary Home”. My theology is showing.

LAND OF THE LIVING
by Pam Bowen

CHORUS:
LET ME WALK IN LOVE IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING
WITH GOD HOLDING MY HAND.
LET ME WALK IN LOVE IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING
HERE IN OUR PROMISED LAND.

Verse 1:
This earth is not a holding tank,
A prison, a dream, or a stage.
It’s one of God’s most holy gifts
Set aside for our growth and change.

CHORUS

Verse 2:
Why would I wait to leave this world
To be with my God when he’s here?
Within, without each one of us
The Kingdom of Love has come near.

CHORUS

© Pamella M. Bowen

Plug Into God

Here is song #5 for November 5: I hear this as Christian rock or pop, maybe.

PLUG INTO GOD
by Pam Bowen

Verse 1:
When I’m pissed at the world, pissed at myself,
Don’t give a damn about anyone else,
Couldn’t care less cause I’ll never win.
Don’t talk to me about no sin—

CHORUS:
I PLUG INTO GOD, CHARGE MY WEAK BATTERY
TANK UP MY HEART THAT’S RUNNING ON EMPTY
TAP INTO GOD’S POWER LINE
AND FEEL THE PEACE THAT BLOWS MY MIND.

Verse 2:
When I don’t want to help, don’t want to do.
Don’t start bugging—I’ll say F—you.
Just want to play my tunes so loud
That I can’t hear the chaos outside my cloud.

CHORUS

Bridge:
Oh, my God, I can’t believe
That you love the screwed-up me.
Thank you, thank you, Lord above
For topping up my heart with love.

CHORUS

© Pamella M. Bowen

Scattering

Scattering

Look at the natural world and you will see plants and animals reproducing by scattering. Trees scatter seeds by the thousands on the wind. Flowers do the same. Fish lay myriad eggs and fertilize them. Even humans send way more sperm cells than necessary to enter that one egg cell that comes ready each month. Scattering seems to be a good strategy, even though not all the seeds will take root. Some of the seeds will grow, and that’s all we need.
Jesus even has a parable about scattering: some grain sprouts, some doesn’t, some withers, some grows and multiplies. There goes God again, doing everything in abundance: manna, plagues, fishes and loaves, water into wine. Prodigality is the way.
So, how does this apply to songwriting? I am the sower, and I am going to cast my lyrics to the wind. After all, lyrics alone cannot grow into a song without being planted in a melody and blossoming into a full composition. I am not afraid of losing seeds to thieves, to barren ground, or to neglect. I have more ready, and an endless creativity to invent new ones. If enough seeds are scattered, eventually one will fall on fertile ground and a song will spring up. God’s pattern of the universe teaches me this. I pray that the following lyric finds purchase in your soil.

BRANDED LOVE
by Pam Bowen

Verse 1:
I caught a sudden glimpse…of my long-ago lover
And ducked into a doorway…so my heart could recover.
After all the years he looked the same…
And I still felt the shame.

CHORUS:
A FIRST LOVE ALWAYS LEAVES ITS MARK
NO MATTER HOW IT ENDS.
MINE BURNED INTO MY VIRGIN HEART
LIKE A SEARING IRON BRAND.

Verse 2:
I trembled like a schoolgirl…caught red-handed by the teacher.
I reddened like a sinner…going up before the preacher.
I realized the past can’t be erased…
When I saw my first love’s face.

CHORUS

Bridge:
Flooding memories set my guilty heart to beating.
I couldn’t bear to face the man I lost by cheating.

CHORUS (VARIATION)
A FIRST LOVE ALWAYS LEAVES ITS MARK
NO MATTER WHO’S TO BLAME.
MY CHEATER’S HEART CANNOT FORGET
IT CAUSED ANOTHER’S PAIN.