Hit me One more Time

No, this is not a reference to the beloved Britney Spears breakout hit..It is something I hear often where I am employed part time.

An event occurred not so long ago that won’t leave my thoughts.  It has caused me to stop and wonder often, it has mandated that I look inward to examine my own prejudice and incorrect assumptions.  I have to look at myself these days and ask, “How dare I?”

A couple weeks back I was working at a convenience store.  I was working the evening shift when a “regular” came in to spend the evening back in lottery land.  That is a whole world unto itself, where darkness looms and the blinking bulbs beckon.  As is customary with most lottery areas, the snacks, coffee, and other beverages are free flowing.  The idea that providing food and drink will lull one into spending more time and money hoping to hit it big.  Thus, part 1 of my title.  “C’mon, hit me one more time…Let’s win this one.  If I can, man would that be nice.”  I smile, inwardly I hope and inwardly I groan.

I groan because this is not my world, I know nothing of the lure, the lights, the lullaby of beeps.  I do not know what motivates a person to spend hours hitting a button, swearing at a screen, consuming large amounts of caffeine and booze.  I groan because I do not understand the hold, the hunger, or the havoc this world inspires in people.  “Hit me, Hit me. HIT ME!”

Here is where I begin ego checking.  Our “regular” in question was in this night, and obtaining their first and second complimentary suds.  A third, fourth, and fifth quickly followed as I watched a trip to the cash machine slow them for just a moment.  A small win…not much, but enough to keep at it for a bit longer.  A sixth and seventh, now–eight and nine together.  I grow frustrated in my spirit and begin a litany of slurs against this person.  None are over vocalized…none leave my mouth, but they are there–ready for spewing.  A tenth and eleventh one are handed over, and I roll my eyes, wondering…..Silently cursing anyone who has spent their evening in front of a machine with pretty lights and endless beeps…Wait a minute!!!!  Do we do that?  Does that happen in another form?  Maybe I should ask my little ones how many hours they spent in front of a blinking and beeping box this weekend?  I don’t think I want to know the answer.  I probably don’t want to count the hours I spend in front of a lap lighted box which allows me to say that I am “working” at all times.  SHAW!!! We all know that is untrue.

So, eleven seems to be the lucky number tonight…a bit later than before, not early enough to call it a night, they hit….I have seen them “hit me” more than one more time…11 times to be exact.  I grimace thinking of that sitting in a near empty stomach, the car keys that dangle, the later hour, the dark that has settled.  It is not my call, nor my business.  Then, they hit..they hit big–well bigger than before.

They come my way to cash in their earnings….A conversation ensues.  I comment on their attire….they smile and tell me they work in the nearest town.  I smile and ask what they do…The answer shocked me and cut my earlier inward diatribe short.  They work with women on a daily basis.  Women who come seeking answers in procedures they would probably wish to avoid….procedures which will change the course of lives forever.  My spirit stops….my heart breaks.  Of course it breaks for anyone in the moments of that decision…the grief, the turmoil—the THE’S I cannot possibly speak to or imagine–and I won’t.

Then my soul ached for another…the one standing in front of me….the one with a cash slip and a ready smile for me.  We speak and I mention that must be an “awesome” place to work for so many reasons.  They agree.  They shake their head in obvious thought and maybe remembrance.  I pause, knowing there is more to the story…there is always more.

They smile a smaller smile and comment that if anyone in their close circle of living ever knew what they did, they would alienate immediately.  I nodded, believing that to be true.  They then comment on what would happen if the congregation knew what they did daily, they would never be allowed in the doors of the church.  I sniff, knowing that to be more than true, and I am ashamed.  I mention that I am in the process of being an ordained Deacon…I have a ways to go, but have the solid MDIV in my hand.  WHO CARES?????  That slip of paper means nothing as a soul in conflict stands before me, only a counter separating us…..never realizing that far less actually separates us.

I am angry in that moment.  Their comment that they agree to volunteer with groups in the church, but are afraid to set foot in the doors….afraid of the judgment, the ridicule…the hatred.  OUCH.  I know this would hold true, I also know that there would be others who would embrace them with the unconditional love that is deserved….although that would be fleeting.

I am angry at myself in that moment…more than the supposed receipt that they would encounter.  I am angry about my thoughts, the hate that I wanted to sling at one who has spent their night…angry how many times I “hit them”….angry and disappointed in myself.

I know how they spent their evening…they spent it here, with me.  I have no idea how they spent their day…I have no idea what they saw, whose hands they held, whose tears they wiped.  I do not know the stories they heard, nor the inner workings of their story.  We chat a while more, they ask what I do….I tell them….they smile and thank me.  THANK ME????I look and cock my head to the side, like my pug does when she is “listening”.  They thank me for the kindness and the compassion I showed when they talked to me….for the willing ear and the assurance that they are a good person.  They are…a good person.

They leave…the machine has hit big for them, a tip comes my way.  I smile, now I can buy some gas to go to work later tomorrow.  More than the cash tip, they left me with an invaluable lesson.

I have my own vices, my own ways of coping or not coping with the world around me.  I have my moments of avoidance and fear-running.  We all do, don’t we?.  I do not know the road this person travels, the stories they carry, or their joy or struggle.  I do not know them….how dare I?

How dare I sit and judge the number of beverages downed?  How dare I silently curse them for their inappropriate lifestyles.  Who am I to judge that?  Who am I to think because I have a couple more letters behind my name that I am any better than those who spend all night before the money machine?  I gulp down my own pride and admit….I’m not.

So, as they venture my way again, they say with a broad smile, “Hit me Baby, one more time!”

I am an Addict

There is no way to sugar coat this reality.  I am a drug addict.  I am not ashamed to admit this, but am not addicted in the way you may be thinking.  I am addicted to drugs, that is the truth.

I have taken anti-depressant medications coupled with anti anxiety meds for quite some time now.  As anyone who takes medications like this will tell you, sometimes it takes a bit to get the dosage and the combination correct.  What worked months ago, may not work in the present, for whatever reason.  Constant awareness of body and mind has to  be a top priority as well as continual conversation with the doctors in charge of care.

It became clear this past fall that the meds I was on were not doing the trick.  In order to make a move to a more stable med regimen, I needed to wean off of one med in order to take another one.  There are a number of meds that cannot and should not be quit “cold turkey.”  Extreme care and caution has to be taken to make sure that there are no big time reactions.

Cymbalta is one of those meds which cannot be quit rapidly…one that has to be monitored with dosages lowered at a rate that the body can handle.  No matter how slow you go, the impacts are still there.

I had been on Cymbalta for quite some time and really had no idea how I was supposed to feel.  I felt no different than any other day.  The decision was made to do some tweaking…first I had to wean off of it.

I have never thought myself addicted to anything, not really.  I mean I like my Diet Coke, but I choose to drink that.  If I decided to stop, I could and would.  This was a a purposeful removal of something the body was using and something the mind knew it needed.  Whether it was working to its highest level is inconsequential.  The body had it, needed it, and wanted it.  To deprive the body of this would prove harder than I expected.

I was instructed to wean off at a slow pace, but was also warned that some days would be tough.  Oh my goodness.  Never have I felt more at a loss and on the edge of a dark hole than I did at that time.  I felt constantly agitated, irritable, on edge, borderline bitchy all the time.  I could hear myself saying things, thinking this was not me saying these things, and I could not stop.  I screamed in my head…STOP STOP STOP, this is not you!  Then I would feel bad for saying and doing things I could not control.  There were times I could not stop the thoughts in my head…could not tell whether I was coming or going or how I was going to feel hour-by-hour.

Physically I felt worse than I had in a long time.  My stomach ached all the time, headaches were worse than ever, nothing tasted good, I did not want to eat, could not sleep…the list was endless.  I look horrid, I acted worse.

As my body continued to release the medication and my body attempted to reset, the cravings kicked in full force.  These were not food cravings.  These were the intense desires to feel leveled out..to feel normal-at least the normal I felt when I was on the drug.  I would hold the remaining pills in the bottle, my hand shaking, willing myself not to take one….I attempted half doses….and yes.  There were times I told no one and took one to make it through.  I felt guilty and sneaky for doing so.  I hated the fact that I could feel so out of whack by the removal of one med. I was angry that my body needed it, my mind demanded it, and it felt like I was powerless to stop what I was feeling.

After the physical, the mental mess I was in was not something I anticipated.  I could not form a coherent thought and did not want to.   I wanted to scream and yell and throw every kind of temper tantrum known to man…and in some ways I did.  There were times I did not recognize the person looking back at me, I know others felt the same.  knowing that made me hate myself and how I felt even more.  I could not control it.  I craved to feel level.  So, I caved.  I gave in…then some light broke through.

I was under the watchful eyes of my doctor, her staff and nurses were incredible to me and for me.  They kept close tabs on me, asking my symptoms, let me talk some frustrations out and told me that I would get through it.  I wanted to quit many times.  I wanted to swear and tell everyone around me that I didn’t give a damn about anyone and I would say and do what I wanted.  There were times my skin itched, my mind ached, I could not tell if what I dreamt was real or hallucination….it was hell.

A couple of people finally asked what in the world was happening.  I had told no one except my dr what was happening.  I broke down and told them I was going through a med withdrawal and I could not tell when it would be over.  They looked at me with such relief and concern…I did not expect that response.  I expected them to hate me, I certainly did not like the person I was becoming.  Out of care, they asked why I had not said something before, why did I think I had to go through it alone?  Why did I possibly think that no one would care or want to help me.  Instead of making me feel small and weak, they were there to bolster me, to lend me their strength and love.  They loved me no matter how nasty I became.  In fact, they showed me more grace, knowing that what was happening was temporary.  They checked in on me, they asked questions, they did not leave me alone.  I made it through.  I could not have done it without that collective care.

Sooooo many people do not have that.  I have never been addicted to alcohol or other recreational drugs, painkillers, gambling, or other addictions.  I do not know what that feels like….but I do.  I do know what feeling deprived of something the mind and body needs to feel normal…or at least the normal I understood.  I know what it feels like to be alone, or at least feel like I am alone.  I know what it feels like to sneak around, to have almost every waking moment consumed with how I could get a hit.  What could I do….how can I get it…will anyone know if I sneak one?  Will it matter?  Maybe this is not that big a deal.  Maybe they are wrong, maybe I do need this.  How can I possibly be addicted, that happens to “those” people.

Those people, indeed.

I was sooo lucky.  I had people, when I let them in, who rallied in and around me and saw me through that time.  There are tons of people who suffer silently, never saying a word and beat themselves up for what is happening.  They continue muddling through.  Or they refuse to admit that there may be a problem, unable to take steps to remedy it.

I was so lucky.  I do not know what it looks like to battle an addiction that has been there for decades.  I  do not know how it feels to try and try again…hoping that this time it will work.  I do understand how quickly an addiction takes hold, how strongly it grips mind, body, soul.  I know what it is to feel powerless, succumbing to something stronger than myself, forgetting that I am stronger than this drug.  I do not know what it means to sacrifice everything and lose everything to keep a norm.  I am so thankful I have not had that experience.  My heart breaks in a new way for anyone wrestling with any kind of addiction…it does not matter what it is.  I know what dark and twisty feels like and I know what it means for people to pull me through.  I am lucky.

I am also lucky to know this side of me.  I am thankful to catch a glimpse of what a world encased in addiction looks like.  It is not a place I would wish on anyone.  It is not a place anyone would want to camp.  It is not a place that people hope to get to and remain, no one wants to lose control of themselves.  I think most of us would just like the chance to escape or dull a pain that exists, for whatever reason.  I think many of us wonder what it feels like to feel good…laughingly, lovingly, ridiculously good.

I do not have the answers, but my eyes are open, my mind is cleared….I understand…if only for a moment.  I will remain today and always, Addicted.

No Fiddler on My Roof

Whether I like it or not, the holiday season will be upon us in no time.  I have gone into the local Wal Mart (ewwwww) and seen the Christmas decorations up already.  I visited a local plant nursery and part of their morning task was to create some holiday ornaments.  The cashiers and I talked about how in retail after Labor Day they have to run full speed into Halloween then to Christmas.  Talk about a whirlwind of a time crunch.

Watching and listening has me thinking lately.  I decided today that I would visit one of the few traditions I carried from my childhood.  My mother would wake on Sunday morning and put in the fixins for a beef roast meal.  This was our Sunday noon meal and I must say, all of us loved it.  Usually mom would take the potatoes from the pan with the roast and mash them!!!!! I watched as my brothers would mix corn in the mashed potatoes and inwardly cringe as I recoil in shock that someone would dare to MIX their food.    I have a strong aversion to mixing food, or to even have food touching one another on a plate.  Can’t do it.  I have good friends who have watched me take fruit off my plate, separate it, then eat it alphabetically.  OK, maybe a bit OCD.

This meal was a moment where everyone gathered–one of the few.  Whether there was much talking was of little interest.  It was usually my older brother talking to my father or my brothers and I egging each on to misbehave.  The food, the smell, the warmth, the promise of leftovers  always brought a smile to my face.  AAAAAhhhh, leftovers.  Let it be said now that there are certain foods which are better the 2nd or 3rd day. Lasagna, scalloped potatoes, goulash, roast beef,–I could go on, but I think you have the idea.  I knew that meant at least a meal or two would be a break from my usual fare of peanut butter sandwiches.  You have no idea.

I was working on such meal today, reliving how it must have been to put it together.  I added a few more touches:  squash, crescent rolls, and choc cookies–anything to bribe the boys.  I was thinking about the details in such a meal, then remembered that I was never shown that.  I observed and am thankful that I have a good memory for such.  I found my youngest standing next to me, clad in only a fuzzy blanket as he had just taken a mid-morning bath. (I don’t know why)  I was peeling and cutting potatoes and he requested to help me.  I instantly tensed as I tried to remember ever doing that when I was young.  I searched my database and could not recall.  I told him he could help me, but he had to get dressed.  No nekid boys in my kitchen, no matter how cute they are.

He came skipping back and I thought this odd.  All I am doing is peeling potatoes and making them ready to roast.  He wanted to peel, uh not so much.  I struck a deal and let him cut them in half under my supervision.  He jabbered the whole time.  I was confounded.  A meaningless task, and he approached it with such good humor.  I shared with him about how his grandpa would have to peel potatoes in the army and that was probably why he might not like real mashed ones.  (again, I dunno)  Hmmm, sharing history.

That may seem so common for many.  It is uncommon for me.  I will soon hear of great traditions, baking, baking,, and more baking.  Making large meals as a unit, games played, memories shared.  i understand some of that from watching my husband’s family.  They talk of vacations, decades of holiday traditions, memories etched in photos.  Hm. That is all well and good for many many many families.  For mine, there was a different level of focus.

To say that the difference in focus is better or worse is not for me to say.  I cannot recall any specific memories except a pinochle game or 2, and times when we would congregate at a certain aunt’s house for a holiday.  Before long, most of those times had faded and no new traditions were born.  I thought nothing of a need to want this.  I did not know to want it.  Now, I struggle with the fact that I just might want something like that.

My family and I have long ceased any get togethers.  We all have our own families, and most often in-laws receive our attention.  I think of Christmas, and I can tell you day for hour what will happen.  Eve will be at one in-law, morning is family time, my family may stop by if the weather is good and they are able.  It will just be my parents and the kids will be overjoyed to see them.  After an hour or so, weather permitting, they will take their leave and the afternoon will be spent at the other grandma’s house.  There all my husband’s sisters and their children will be present.  I have been around 14 years and it is still foreign to me.  I know the drill, the expectations, still it feels like I am under water, treading, trying to navigate the bottom with a slight view of murky water.

I see the goodies my in-law’s families have made, the handmade and cute little ornaments and decorations.  I have none of that to bring.  I don’t know how.  People speak of trips taken and making special efforts to keep certain traditions alive, I have no reference for that.  I think I want to establish, but I am not sure how to do so.   I am not a crafty girl….in the least.  I have boys, not so keen on cooking and baking and artsy creative stuff.  If they do want to help, what does that look like?  How do you let them help and not make a mess or how do they not drive you nuts in the process with wanting to take over and “help”?  We know they are really not helping, right?

Many will wonder, huh?  No baking, making things together, no special traditions that HAD to be kept, a favorite place that was the ONE place that brought everyone back together?  You HAVE to be joking.

I am not.  There was occassional games, but don’t ask me to play Pictionary.  There were times at the lake where we played all the time, but nothing that had to be followed.  I have memories of a moment or 2, nothing more.  I look at pictures of my husband’s family and the scads that I take of my children as they grow.  One of my children asked me where pictures of me would be.  I told them honestly that was not a priority in my family.  Hard work and doing work well and doing the best you could was valued, which is not all bad.  However, there are no pictures, no record of what we did or how we did it.  I asked my mother the other day what my song was that she used to get me to go to sleep….there was none.  I never thought that would bother me.  It does now, weird, at 39 that bothers me BIG TIME.  What book was read at night?  None.  What favorite stuffed animal or dress or what have you, that I HAD to have?  Dont’ know.  What made me laugh, giggle?  Who knows.

That may not seem like much to wonder about at my age, but as I watched my son today wanting to help cut potatoes, I was aghast at what and how to pass traditions on to them.  How do I pass on recipes, lefse cooking, krumkake, games, stories, AAAAHHHHH?  I know that legacy lies in the stories and traditions we leave behind.  Makes me wonder, if there is little of that in the family I grew up in, what does that say about our legacy?  hm.  Interesting thought.    I just stumbled on that.  Legacy and tradition, it seems that’s where its at…..

What legacy of tradition to leave?

shalom

cahl

Not my Son!

I became a mom about 9 years ago when my oldest son came bounding into the world. After 14 hours of labor, he appeared, stared me straight in the face and made not a sound. He took the room by silent storm as nurses and doctors cooed over him, exclaiming that he was one of the most beautiful babies they had seen. I thought, “Uh, of course you would say that, you HAVE to say that about all kids born.” No, they told me. There is something distinct about this one, they said. Distinct? Well, he certainly made a dramatic entrance. After he was born, the medical staff present busied themselves with me and sent my son upstairs. I knew before they told me, that something was wrong. I could feel it. After he was delivered, there was no pain….there was only peace. I watched the midwife at my feet count the pulse beats and watch pan upon pan fill with red liquid. I knew that I was losing more than a typical birth, all said and done I lost about 2-2 1/2 units of blood. I remember looking at my mother, who was watching me and telling her that all would be just fine. If what I had come into this world to do was to deliver my son, I had done just that. There was an overwhelming calm as I smiled at her, and closed my eyes. It was a moment of warmth, silence, and grace. I do not recall the scurry in the room, the nurses barking at the phone on the wall to bring up an ER tech. I do not remember my mother telling the room that my eyes were closed and my hand limp. All I remember is that for a moment I knew that I had done exactly what I was to do. At that moment, all was right with the world.

How can that be? Your son is upstairs, you are unconscious, on your way to checking out. How can you be at peace with what is happening? Don’t you want to see your son grow up, to teach and mold him, to love him everyday? How can you think this is ok? Fight, fight with all that you are!

Well, at that moment I could not fight, it was not my role to do so. There were others to do that on my behalf, my role was to fight for the life of my son, deliver him, and make sure he was safe. I had done that. There are other mothers out there who are called to do much more than I for their children. It is part of the role and call of a mother.

I think of another mother on this Easter. You see Holy Week has a different feel to me now that I have my own children. There is something so tender and raw about this journey of her Son. I think of Mary, mother of Christ as she watched the progression of events, and I marvel at her. There are times I look at my own sons and giggle as I think of the tirade that Jesus must have put His mother through while He was growing. The absences, the comments, the wandering off for days on end, and the cryptic messages must have driven her to distraction. The pleas of,”mom,can I?” Imagine this boy as a teen, full of knowledge, a yearning for something different, but maybe not able to articulate what it is. Imagine this boy as he questions, struggles, listens to inner voices calling him to something too large for conception; conception larger than what His mother was called to do.

There are moments I understand this woman, this Mother of love and grace. I understand the standing back and watching, praying that the testing of limits her child is doing will keep him safe. I wonder if she listened to his comments with peace or an unsettled feeling? I listen to my oldest talk about what sees and what he hears, it takes my breath away sometimes. He has a level of understanding and perception that floors me. What many of us spend years of education trying to figure out, he explains with a simple twist of his head, a smile, and a shrug of his shoulders. It is exactly what it is, for him there is no need to complicate love, compassion, beauty, and forgiveness. He knows what it looks like, how it feels, and is unafraid to express them in his own words. The wisdom of simply expressed thought, thought that we make confused by barriers, obstacles, and conditions.

I think of this Mother as I watched my children this week. I am careful what I say, how I approach the emotion in these days. While the week begins with great joy and celebration, a parade and cheerful laughing, there are also moments of gut wrenching sadness and loss. Easter week holds the contradiction of all emotions. What must Mary be thinking as she journeys this with her Son. She knows she cannot save him, she has seen the effects of the last three years. Would that she could take this from Him. As a mother, I feel that pain, the knowledge that your child hurts, is anguished and she can do nothing to stop it.

Would that she could join Him in the garden the night before He accepts fate. I imagine she would cradle her Son, rocking him back and forth, letting Him cry out the pain. Her arms would encircle Him, willing the strength that only a mother can provide, praying it would be enough. The tear stained face of her Son must tear at her heart, I can almost hear her railing at the same Father He cries out to in this moment. “WHY!” “Not MY son.” “No, He is YOUR Son.” “I will do what needs to be done.”

Good Friday always dawns cold and dreary for me. The sun may shine, but there is a cloak of darkness which covers my emotions. I watch the clocks, silently ticking away until noon. Thanks to modern day cinema, I can hear the driven nails, see the sprawled arms, feel the weight of the crowd. If I close my eyes I can see the picture clear and the mass of people presses closer and closer to the action. I can see those whom He loves. Mary Magdalene, oh how my heart breaks for her. I see disciples, believers, and brothers already confuserequd and mourning. I see the guards, those who doubt, those who question, and those who hate. In the front, is His Mother. I can picture her Son looking down at her, a mixture of grief, loss, and peace as He does what He is called to do. Feel the agape, unconditional and reverent love this Son has for his mother. Out of the sheer madness and agony of the physical pain comes a love which can only be described as Divine. He looks at John, whom He loves and commands him to watch after His mother. He speaks to His own mother, tears glisten from His eyes as he presents John to His mother. She is not alone. He has ensured her safety, her care, and made clear the path for her love to be continued. AAAAAAhhhhh!!!!…..

The noise continues, the deafening cloud draws the bodies closer, the summit of emotion reached. So many would scream the final line. I hear a quite resignation, a peaceful resolution, the fight is finished–there is no more pain. The whisper may come as loud shouts in the soul, but the eyes close, the hand goes limp, the last breath drawn. She delivered her Son amongst the primal earth and brought Him to this moment years later. She had no ER doctor to call, no final IV jammed into an arm to save. She heard and saw and breathed the last breath right along with her baby boy, her Holy Son. She remains, stays, mourns, and misses this boy made man. Tender hands usher Him down, tending the body, swathing this example of her heart made flesh. What must she think in this moment, how must she feel? How can this Mother believe that tomorrow or the next day will heal this wound?

This woman amazes me. Her love, her unconditional love and fight for her Son drove her to the cross. Drove her to watch, to hear, to clutch at those around her…Her love required her to let Him go. Ow. That hurts. Her love required that she let Him go. She had not hold over Him in this moment, just as she had no hold over Him from birth. A wry smile might play at her lips as she sits with that knowledge days and years later. There must be a quiet peace as she knows that what is done is done. It IS finished, but the next act is about to begin, if only she can wait a day or two. If only…..

Why Wouldn’t I?

He comes in each day–sometimes 2 or 3 times, depending on the circumstances and the green in his pocket.  His clothes grow more rag-tag by the week and there is always a scruff of beard playing at his natural features.

Today he appears in a heavier coat, with a fur lined hood, heavy clod boots, and a new adornment….his glasses.

Most would overlook these particulars–would choose to forget how often he comes in to see us.  Most would rather not waste their time on the unclean clothes, the unshaven face, the eyes eclipsed by so much–life.  He compels me to look, to see, to hear, and to love.

I know him by name, but most would simply roll their eyes knowing the real reason he comes in is for the mutiple cans of large malt beer.  You know the kind, the big 24 oz can which ranks right up there with HAMMS?  On a good visit I will ring up 2-3 cans, realizing that by the end of my shift he will be back for refills of at least 3 more.  I know his beverage by sight, can predict if he will return and i always sigh.

I know his hands.  They shake, they convulse, they are roughened by the burns of many a lighter, scarred by the life he has led.  Often they cannot hold onto the change given back to him, so I cup my hand beneath his so as to catch the coins as they fall.  He laughs cautiously, waiting to see if I will berate him.  I make sure the change is tucked away before counting back the bills so he knows what is coming to him.  I keep my hand beneath his, ready to help if needed.

I know his need.  The bag.  I make certain that the cans are always in a white, plastic, bag with handles.  Some, he comments, don’t bother with a bag.  “Gets tough to carry all that in my pockets with no bag.”  Some place it in a paper bag, “Makes me wonder if they want it to rip on purpose.  Thems cans are cold, then the bag gets wet, then it rips.”  Makes one wonder, indeed.

Into the bag goes the malt, sometimes a pack or 2 of smokes.  My eyes always glance at the tips of his fingers, they are calloused and burned from many a match or lighter.  I often wonder, who is around him to help light his smoke when his hand shakes so?  Who helps crack open the can, and how often does he curse the bane of this existence, then feeling the relief as the cold suds reach the back of his throat.

Today, I have seen him 3 times, the count is at 9 24oz malts.  I sigh, I choke back my own judgment, I grit my teeth and smile.  I look him in the eyes as he speaks to me.

“You aint like some of the others.  Some of them make me stand a long time waiting to take my money, they tell me I am not enough of a paying customer.  Then they throw the bag at me, if I get one at all.  You aint that way.”  I smile.

“Why would I be that way?  That is not how I play.”

Why wouldn’t I?  You see, as I make sure he has his plastic bag secure in my hand, I pray that I do not see him in here again…at least for this type of purchase.  I am angry at the way he has expected to be treated, anticipating that people think him less of a person, believing he deserves to be a second class citizen.  I hear his voice when he tells me he is, “gonna go home to my lazy boy and wait to die.”  NOOOOOOOO.  No. no.

Why wouldn’t I care for him the way I hope others would care for me.  I think of him each night that I work.  Each day that it is sub-zero and I know he is ambling in for the 2nd or 3rd time.  I shake my head and then I remember what an example he is to me.

Example?

My clothes are not tattered, I do not smell like day old beer, and my hands do no shake, but my insides burn from scars unhealed.  What I may see as an obvious struggle is no better nor any worse than the struggle and voices I battle each day…the inner turmoils we all encounter.  I thank him for being an example that in this moment, his battle is only a bit more visible.  It could be only a moment from now when all my skeletons are exposed for the world to see, but for now they are hidden behind a perky smile, snarky comments, and a quick wit.  Today, they remain hidden…..

Another Mother;’s Response

I have read the ” I am Adam’s _________Mother” article and I am shaken to the core.  It hits me in a place that I cannot fully describe to many people, it makes me hurt, because on some levels she is describing my oldest son.  Some will read this and comment that my son is not capable of such behavior, he would never talk to anyone in those voices or threaten another human being.  If you believe that, I invite you to journey with us for a day or two, or talk to our closest neighbors, who he plays with on almost a daily basis.

while I have read the account, I relate, but I also caution us to take what is happening with a grain of salt.  To pin this type of madness on a presumed mental illness is dangerous and uneducated–the truth is, it is hearsay.  We don’t know the motive, the life he was living, nor the depth of his personal pain.  We are too quick to jump at what may seem  as easy conclusions because the reality of the situation is too heavy for us to bear.  We should not have to bear such horrendous acts, we should not grieve at the senseless killing of children, but more importantly, we should be crying out for the senseless killing of anyone–not just children.

Where is our outrage when gangs are killing in the streets, or hours from where I live the suicide and addiction rates are some of the highest in the nation, with a poverty rate the lowest in the US?  Where is our outrage when first and second grade students “quit school” and sit more time in the principal’s office instead of the classroom because most of the male figures in their lives are already in prison and they are just waiting their turn?  Where is our outrage when we use words as swords to lash out at each other, demeaning how we live, and love? Where, oh where, is our compassion?

Where is our compassion when we allow people to slander one another in the name of anything because it elevates their own position or opinion?  Where is the understanding that we are each as different and unique as each snow flake that falls each winter.  I am from the midwest people, and them’s a lot of snow flakes from many many winters.  I am as different from you as you are from me and we are as unique as every one of those snowflakes ever made.  That baffles my mind to even imagine!  I celebrate that difference…hell, I rejoice in it!

My oldest son has a double diagnosis, a double mental illness…and I hope and pray through every day with him.  He is not a madman waiting in the wings, he is a little boy with an abundant zest for life, too much intelligence, and a spiritual understanding that astounds me.  He can also lose it, big time.  He has a diagnosis, but more than that, he has a name and a life that I want to be full of hope and promise and light and love.  He has a name and an identity and a sparkling personality which he uses to drive me up the wall quicker than any human being…and I love him for it.  He worries me, causes me to fret and stew, to tear my hair out, to walk around with my heart outside my body—and so does his brother–and I love them for who they are.  His intelligence will not dictate his actions, his moral character and spiritual grounding ( or lack thereof) will spell out his future.  As a parent, I have to pour everything I can into both of them and believe that I, and others that I have trusted to care for them, have instilled the right and proper and strengthening ideals into them.  I have to watch them walk out into the big world everyday and relinquish them into someone else’s control….whether that someone is a school, a job, a loved one, or someone aiming to harm them.  I have to trust that I have done my job as a parent and that means trusting myself to let them go….and to admit that in the end, they are not really mine.  OUCH!!!! That hurts, doesn’t it.  My boys are not really mine.  They are on loan to me and I am the blessed one charged to their care for this time and this place and in this moment.  There will come a time when I am asked to allow them to continue in their journeys, and like every parent, I pray it is never within my lifetime that I am asked to give them up to something bigger than me.  They are gifts for this time and this moment, I struggle to remember that, because I want to believe that they are solely mine.

The reality?  Yes, I have seen my son wig out…I have seen him beg me to get a gun and kill him, I have been the butt of his threats and his violent anger…and I have held him, cradled him, and sang him to rest time and again.  I would do that for anyone.  I would do that for anyone because I know that anyone of us could lose it at any moment.  That is right…Any one of us could lose it at any time!  Think back to stories we hear of babies being shaken and we are shocked when it happens….horrible, yes!  Put yourself in the position of that person who has had that child screaming for hours on end, already tired, worn out, and nothing they do helps alleviate the screaming…..Understandable how a person can be pushed to their limits?????

When we put it in perspective it is not hard to imagine a person pushed to the edge…we are one thread away from it.  THANKFuLLY, there is compassion, common sense, and love that covers us most of the time.  Let’s walk carefully the lines of blame we draw, lest we wrongly paint a whole faction of people who struggle with learning disabilities, mental illness, or any other politically correct label we want to use as violent and deviant.  The fact is, we are all violent and deviant in our own ways…..ever flipped someone off who cut in front of you?  I have.  Ever swore under your breath when you see the cop lights flashing behind you?  I have–out loud.  Ever said something so awful to someone you love in the heat of hurt, anger, betrayal, and injustice?  I have and I have had people do that to me.  Ever wanted to hit someone so hard that they did not know what was coming at them?  I have and hated myself for it later.

Have you ever had someone apologize for a wrong they had done to you?  Has grace come knocking and shown you mercy and forgiveness even when you knew you did nothing to deserve it?  How about love?  Has someone poured their life into yours, knocking down your barriers and your walls to see the ragged soul you carry and loved you in spite of your messy self? I hope so.  I hope you have been loved with a fierceness that takes your breath away and that you can extend that to others.  i hope you know what it means to be pursued in a way that makes you feel wanted and needed and important because you are you and no one else.  I hope you know what it feels like to pursue someone else in that fashion…I hope that you know yourself as a beautiful and necessary human being deserving to be seen, heard, and loved every day of your life and for eternity.

What happened Friday is beyond tragic and has dominated much of my thinking the last couple of days, but it has also served as motivation.  I am beginning to uncover my own areas of outrage at things happening all around me and I see an obligation to stand in the midst of it and be light.  I feel a call to cast light into the darkness, reveal the truth, and walk doggedly into it with wisdom and compassion.  I hope I am smart enough not to go alone….I pray I am not walking alone.

My son has a couple of mental illnesses….but more than anything, he is my son, the first-born to 2 parents who love him, sacrifice for him daily, and would walk through fire to protect him.  He is part of my body, my soul, and my heart walking around out there for the world to see.  He is one of 2 of the best things I have ever done….when you see him, love him for me–protect him and keep him safe when I cannot.  I am counting on you to be the light just as you can count on me.  Can we count on each other?

To BE…..Healed

Wow, I can hardly believe the road has taken me this far.  After 38 years and a constant battle up the hill and fighting, it appears I may have reached the summit and I hardly know how to react or what to do.

I sit here on a Tuesday night, I  can see the small string of lights attached to my house, i am seated right next to the Christmas tree and its lit branches, I can hear my oldest son play Star Wars Battlefront and narrate the scenario as my youngest plays on my Nook.  Most electronics make their way to my sons’ hands before I get a chance to get used to them.  It is the cost of having boys it seems.  If it were girls, they would be in my jewelry and make up and asking to borrow my clothes…I will content myself with the onslaught of noise and boisterous play.  My pug is seated on the floor, gazing at me with forlorn eyes, knowing that she would like to lay claim to my lap, but the square typey thing I call a laptop has taken that honor.  She sighs and snorts at me, then fixes her eyes back on the floor.  Maybe, she figures, the more pathetic and uninterested she looks, the more pity I will have on her.  She is right.  An invite to her, a call of her name and I have a 20lb, fawn colored, fur child resting her head on my typey thing.  She sighs a deep moan of contentment and settles herself into the crook between me and the chair.  All is well in her world.

She has not left me alone much in the last couple of weeks.  She has been my constant companion as I make multiple trips to the bathroom, grimacing in pain and logging them for a drug test diary.  The day before Thanksgiving, I was given the news that the last set of polyps I had were stage 2 and that due to the major damage done to my gastrointestinal system many parts had been compromised, including the pancreas.  GREAT.

Back up, did this just occur?  Heavens no.  My adopted family will even tell you, that while I am prone to moments of dramatic fancy, my stomach issues have been present my whole life.  I kid you not.  There has never been a day that I have not had a stomach ache, wondered where the closest bathroom was, or how quickly I would lose what I had eaten. As a young child, there were lists and lists of items that I could not eat…never knowing if I was simply allergic to everything under the sun or my system was that sensitive.  No sugar, milk, citrus, or dark-colored pop could I ingest.  This is not to say that I did not do a fair share of sneaking contraband articles, but I paid for it dearly later that day.

When I received my full adoption file a little over a year ago, many questions were answered.  Many I will not reveal at this time, but from a physical standpoint, many murky moments were made more clear.  I was well over 6 weeks premature, and weighed less than 4 lbs at birth.  Born in a rural and predominantly Native American town, the likelihood of good prenatal care is questionable.  I was born the beginning of Sept and was released from the NICU at the end of Sept– over 20 days in intensive care.  Already narratives talked about my inability to keep formula down and their concern about what would happen when I went home surfaced.  They were right to worry.

Within the first 14 days, social services had been contacted 3 separate times by my biological family to have me removed.  When the social worker made the first visit she wrote about the confusion in the house, the lack of care I was receiving, and the total disregard family members seemed to have for my welfare.  Of great concern were the stomach issues I had already experienced and the care that I required being a premie and of low birth weight, there seemed to be either too much frantic questions or not enough attention being paid to me and the social worker was already concerned.  Too little attention paid to a 4 lb baby?  How could you pay too little attention?

After I was removed the first time, I was placed back in the hospital where it was determined that I was not being fed, had not been taking in calories, and had in fact, lost weight.  I had none to spare.  The long spiral of stomach concerns began and were exacerbated by lack of care, my biological mother never did get it together and overcome her fear of dealing with one with such stomach problems.  It seems that much of the fine-tuning of system growth that happens in the last month in utero did not take place, coupled with poor natal care, and it is a miracle I survived birth….literally.  Yet, I did.  I survived bottles of beer being fed to me so that I would stop crying, and I survived enough to be adopted into a new home before I was a year old.  For that I am thankful.  Given the track record and the narrative I have, I would not have lived much longer in that environment.  I was delivered–again.

The stomach issues have continued to plague my life ever since I can remember.  There is no consistent behavior, nothing sets it off, nothing makes it worse, and yet, everything does.  I can be going along fine, eating a wonderful meal and 20 minutes later, am miserable.  I have been tested for every allergy–none appear.  I have undergone colonoscopies and endoscopes since I was 25, I am and old hat at the game, with more barium enema and radioactive eggs consumed that I can count.  Yesterday I underwent another set of scopes and found out for the first time in years that I had a clean one.  While there is much inflammation and scarring, I had no polyps to speak of and no reason to take tissue samples.  The dr even told me that I had beat the colon cancer for the 5th time, and he has not a clue how I have done it.  Neither do I, other than the host of angels and prayers covering me in the last weeks.

Tomorrow I walk into my Dr’s office and receive a drug (or placebo) which should start to calm down the constant spasm of my intestinal system, taking some of the pressure off the pancreas.  There is great concern about this as it has thrown off all my metabolic.  There could be an end to pain, an end to the constant worry and stress over how I feel and why.  An end may be near for the feeling of punishment that I have felt my body to have undergone my entire life.  You see, I believed wholeheartedly that much of what I was experiencing was a way to punish me for my existence.  If I had been born into a different set of circumstances, I would not feel this way.  Had I been a more docile baby, more adaptable, I would not have annoyed my parents….UH DUH!!!! I did nothing wrong.  Repeat, I did nothing wrong and I am not being punished.

Tomorrow could give me the permission I have sought my whole life–permission to feel and be pain free.  I have no idea what this looks like, I have no idea how to embrace this concept, parts of me have no clue what to do.  This is a gift, a wonderful chance to experience something I do not know.  There is fear.  What do I do when there is no pain?  How do I function if there is no reason to worry and carry a secret of inner turmoil?  Even the alcoholic will tell you they would give their right arm to be done, but the fear of the unknown, no matter how enticing is almost paralyzing.  That lifestyle is all they know, this pain is what I have known for 38 years.  38 years could be over in a manner of days—it has taken this long to get here.

38 years of tears, anger, humiliation, and hurt come together in a chance at something new, and here I sit scared out of my mind.  I am terrified to walk into that DR office, terrified to take the med (or placebo), terrified to think my journey down this road may be over and a new order will replace what i have known for 38 years.  The status quo is comfortable even in its dysfunction, but it is time for a change, a shift in the continuum.  I pray for the courage to move forward, to embrace this, to rejoice.  To LIVE.  I ask from you the permission to speak freely, to express my thoughts, and the space to work through some of what this calls me into exploring.

Let’s do this?

Shalom and healing to you!

cahl.

Pomp Your Circumstance

Begin:   Looking out amongst the crowded gymnasium one can sense the excitement of a generation about to take their first steps into the world.  Clad in caps and gowns, with messages lovingly taped to the top, making sure the tassel is in the right place, we can feel their anticipation.  Young ladies cast an eye down to the single flower given them by a loved one.  The boys jostle one another, …

too much pent up energy to vocalize what they are thinking.  It’s easier to punch each other than to tell someone how they feel.  Questions loom in the air, “will we see each other again?  Is this really it?  Where do we go from here?  Did we really make it?  What do we do now?” Can you hear them?  The nervous laughter, the louder than normal jokes about home room giving way to their lining up one last time.  The music swells, the Pomp and Circumstance we know so well.  It is the end of an era; the beginning of another.   The beginning, what is that?  How do we begin?  What is the beginning if this moment is the end?   We watch as the next generation of young dreamers’ file down the aisle, some choking back tears, others stifling a laugh or two.  They learned to line up this way years ago when kindergarten meant tying shoes and nap time.  Today they line up and take the walk one last time, journeying into their unknown, to begin again.     Our thoughts and dreams give way to action; a new era ushers in a chance to begin and to lean into a state of reinvention.   Watershed moments bring us to the ends of ourselves, to the foot of the cross, to the end, and a chance to begin again.  There are many who can relate to being called to begin.  Moses was commissioned to lead a people to freedom, to be the voice of redemption, to begin a movement.  Joseph saw visions in dreams, suffered terrible scrutiny from family members, lived through the betrayal of his brothers, and was called to begin a legacy.  Mary began a relationship with a carpenter, brought forth a child, thus beginning a new covenant of grace and peace. We are also asked to begin, to initiate goodness, peace, and compassion for one another.  The means in which we start the process does not and cannot look the same.    The beauty of the process of beginning is that is must look different because the road we journey is as individual as snowflakes that fall.  Being a people who can introduce one another to love and kindness is perhaps one of the highest callings we undertake.  Sometimes it is scary to begin a journey towards something unknown.  The voices of reason scream at us, questioning our resolve, the talent we possess, the practicality of a dream so dear.  Yet, we can begin that journey with a small step, knowing that if done with a pure heart and honest motivation, there is little we cannot accomplish.  Our Creator knows this and wants our success more than we can imagine.  This benevolent Maker infuses us with all the means necessary to entertain those dreams and desires, the desire is there for us to take the steps in faith, to begin the task of being.  With the excitement of a young graduate we can embrace the exhilaration of another new journey and a moment steeped in beginning. “‘I’m sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I’m sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in me.’ Acts 26:16-18

Bushwhacked

Bushwhacked

What began as a friendly game of capture the flag amongst the neighborhood kids quickly turned a new direction as the older children took control.  The majority of them had played together in the same backyard for years, coming home to toss their bags in the house and run to the sanctuary of play.  Aside from the occasional argument over whose turn it was next, they gave and took turns and blows with general good humor.  The motley group of boys and girls ranged in ages and the bigger kids looked out for the little ones and parents young and old agreed that this was a great group of young people.

Lately, though there seemed to be a shift in attitude, as though with the onset of middle school the invisible lines were drawn and camps created.  Today the innocent game seemed to have a frenzied sense to it, as though there were an undercurrent running that no adult would be able to see or feel.  The hits a bit harder, the barbs a bit more cutting, tackles that were meant for touch only sound more violent, harsh.  Then the words, the comments riddle the air.

“Take that one, freak!  You’re going down tonight; I’ll make you wish you were like the rest of us.”

“I told you not to talk to me when I’m at that table with the rest of the gang; you’re not one of us.  Get that through your head.  You’re not welcome there.”

“Gawd, no!  I will never walk into that dance with you!  Dude, what is wrong with you!”

The barrage of complaints rain down on their fellow neighborhood player.  Where yesterday they traded “who’s your mama” jokes, today the jokes are replaced by hate and threats.  The ambush of rage spewed forth, these young teens choosing to bushwhack one of their own, to make them pay for something beyond their control.

“Hey, step off; I haven’t done anything to you!  What is your deal?  All I did was wave your way in the lunch line, is that a friggin’ crime?  You’ve only spent whole weeks at my house and vacationed with my family every summer.”

“You are a freak!  Get this through your head; you made your choice when you decided to “come out.”  You knew what would happen, man, you coulda rode the high all the way through school, and you had to declare who you are so the whole damn world would know.  You don’t think people wonder about me?  Man, you’re so dense!  It’d be better if you’d just transfer or just… Ah, hell.  I’m outta here.”

He took the rest of the group with him, leaving one alone, bushwhacked, bombarded, and beaten.  Maybe it would be better to transfer or, there are other options.  Yah, there are always other options, there is always another choice.

The hate, where do we learn it?  When does the familiar companionship of a neighboring game of tag become something sinister?  What motivates us to turn against each other so easily?  The blows of a tackle may heal and the bruises fade, but the words and the intentions remain.  Those don’t lose impact and can do far more damage than any broken bone or wounded ego.  The tapes play for a lifetime, shaping ideas of identity and limiting potential.  How unaware of the impact we have on one another.

The Creator looks at each of us with joy and love, unconditionally.  Where we see a flaw or imperfection, or a different way of behaving in the world, God sees pure perfection and potential.  All of creation is embraced with a love that knows no bounds, no barriers, and nothing can separate any of us from that perfect love.  It does not matter who we love, how we love, what we have done, said, or left undone; we are called and claimed as beloved children.  In that moment of conflict in the backyard, the love for every one of those kids overflowed from the Creator, the same love covered each of them and will continue to cover them no matter what happens tomorrow.  That unconditional and fierce love covers each of us, no matter the age, experience, past, present, or future.   That is an impact which can move mountains and tame even the most hateful tongues.  The impact of steadfast love now and forever holds true.

“If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you.
John 15:17-19

To BE SEEN, HEARD, and LOVED.

  • To Be Seen, Heard, and Loved
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  • There is a cartoon which depicts a small child standing in front of their mother and the only words we hear from the little one are ,” Mom, mom, mom, MMMMom, MOMMMY, MOM!!!!” As soon as she looks down, a bit exasperated, we see the child flash a wide toothy grin and reply, “HI!” as they run off to play.
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  • I giggle to myself as I replay this scenario, imagining my 2 boys doing the same. They do, in fact, stand there and wait for me to look at them and laugh heartily when I do and all they say is “Hi!” and then take off running. I think of that often as as message plays in the back of my mind. It is a message that came to me a little over a year ago as I worked at a behavioral hospital as a chaplain. It did not matter the age of the person sharing, or the story of pain and regret they were sharing, one message was clear, “People want to be seen, heard, and loved.” This message presents itself as I think about the story of Jesus and the woman at the well.
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  • Many of us have heard and read this account, and we have our own opinions about her and Jesus reaction and treatment of her. I invite us to listen and read with a different perspective, I invite us to listen as though we are interacting with a young child.
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  • From the Gospel of John in the Message, “
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  • John 4:5-42
  • The Message (MSG)
  •  4-6To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.
  •  7-8A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
  •  9The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
  •  10Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”
  •  11-12The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”
  •  13-14Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
  •  15The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”
  •  16He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”
  •  17-18″I have no husband,” she said.
  •    “That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”
  •  19-20″Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”
  •  21-23″Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.
  •  23-24″It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
  •  25The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”
  •  26″I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”
  •  27Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
  •  28-30The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves.
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  • I have always loved this interaction with Jesus and the woman. In the hottest and most wretched part of the day comes this woman to draw water—sustenance for all life. Everyone else had gathered before now, had been privy to the latest news and gossip, drawn for themselves what they needed for their families, so what remains has been dipped into and drawn from many times before this woman comes. I envision Jesus watching her, having observed the group and knowing the treatment she would receive. I imagine Jesus waiting to have a minute alone with her so he can speak to her, an image of Jesus aimlessly drawing in the sand with a stick comes to mind. When she steps forward to draw the water, he asks her for a drink. Big Idea number 1, Jesus saw her!
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  • We may refer to this person as Woman ( she never appears again), but she may be any nationality, race, gender, educationally trained, young or elder. She may be wise or book smart, may be dirt poor in possessions or the richest person in wealth. It does not matter. In this moment, as a Samaritan woman, plagued with guilt and sin, she is unwelcome to speak to this Jew, this teacher, This MAN! He speaks firsts and asks her assistance, knowing full well who she is and what she represents.

     

     

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  • The woman isn’t searching for anyone. All she wants is water. Jesus is seeking her. One must go to Samaria if you want to reach Samaritans. He doesn’t avoid Samaria; he doesn’t hurry through it. Though she does not know it, this woman has a “divine appointment” with the Son of God.
  • The conversation begins with a simple question from Jesus: “Will you give me a drink?” He is tired and thirsty and she has the water he needs. He was thirsty and knew it. She was thirsty and didn’t know it. The woman did not come to the well seeking Christ, but he came to the well seeking her. In his approach we see the reat heart of our Lord Jesus is without prejudice. It matters not to him that others would not go to Samaria and others would not speak to this woman. He welcomes all and shuns none.
  • As Jesus converses with her, we begin to see the story continue to take shape.He draws her into conversation, asks her questions and WAITS for the answer. He knows the answer, but wants to hear from her experience, her voice what she has come searching to find. BIG IDEA # 2 He HEARS her.
  • How many times have we thought how wonderful it would be if someone actually heard what we had to say? Lately my oldest son has taken to watching Airplane Dogfights and WW2 battles on Netflix. I have no interest in these historical accounts whatsoever. Days after he has seen an episode, he will recount the entire 45 minute program complete with his own embelishments, 10 minutes into the account, I am thinking, “I hope he does not ask me a question about this, because I have not hear a thing he has said.” Shame on me. Shame on my lack of attention and the lack of listening and really hearing my son. Clear out the clutter of his story and what is he telling me? “Mom, this is really important and I have not seen you all afternoon and I am really interested in this and I want to share it with you. Please hear me, please hear what I am not saying.” Aren’t we all crying that someone would look past all that we think we hear to ask the real questions.

Into the clutter of this woman’s life. Jesus chooses to enter and to ask about her life. From that point on she decides to test the waters by grilling his knowledge of Jewish Law and tradition and Jesus speaks to the heart of the issue instead of becoming sidetracked in theology and history. He knows they are both aware, but he want to know more. He wants to know more about her. This Jesus reminds me of the same Jesus we encounter in the 1 chapter of John. We learn that in the beginning the word became Flesh and walked among us

14The Word became flesh and blood,

and moved into the neighborhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,

the one-of-a-kind glory,

like Father, like Son,

Generous inside and out,

true from start to finish.

 

There is something so comforting about this Man, Teacher, Rabbi, Prophet, and Messiah to be flesh and blood and move into the neighborhood. Places were people reek and their clothes are tattered and torn, areas where drug deals happen across the street from a 13 year old girl selling herself so she can buy food to put on the table for her 3 other siblings who wait at home. This same teacher watches and listens as fights break out over who travels on what side of what track or road. He shakes his head, knowing that if either side could understand the need to be heard and seen by the other, many of the conflict would dissolve.

HE does the same thing with our Samaritan woman. He calls out her sin, but in a more non chalant way he asks her to go and get her husband, he knows she cannot produce one. HE continues to push in her direction where she gives him half the story.

Does Jesus love this woman? Yes.  He knows the truth and still offers her eternal life. Here is the wonder of God’s grace. Only someone who loves you can look at your past without blinking. Real love means knowing the truth about someone else and reaching out to them anyway. He’s not ashamed of her past but he cannot help her until she gets beyond the shame and admits the truth.

 

This same Jesus chose to eat with sinners, convict royalty, bless the children, and speak truth and grace to all he met. It did not matter how filthy the person speaking looked, how badly they reeked, whether they had shoes on their feet or a place to call home that night. It did not matter if the sin consisted of a lifetime of drugs and addiction, or abandoning children, or murder, the same Christ enters into real and engaged conversation to learn the story and reflect on last BIG IDEA #3 He LOVES her.

 

No matter what position she may or may not have in the commuinity, in this moment and in this place. She is loved and honored in that. There existed berween them 4 different walls that Jesus needed to overcome in order to reach the soul of who she was. There was a spiritual wall===what does she know in her head and what is she willing to embrace through heart and spirit? There is a racial wall, Jesus is a Jew, educated and able to move in other social circles, she is a Samaritan woman and with quite a checkered past. If not completely shunned, she would at least be fearful for her safety. Gender and morality represents the last 2 walls. She is a female, the lowest common denominator is a woman of ill repute. She does not deserve to have this conversation, does not deserve nor would be welcome to gether at the earlier time to gather water. This community is not her friend, they judge and find themselves lucky that they are not her. Yet, instead of condemning her for her life, he moves on to discuss a way to freedom.

 

Part of that truth is accepting grace where it simply is. This Jesus is the same one that rolls up his sleeves and walks right into the neighborhood and interacts with whatever they are grappling with at the time. Some of it is wonderful and celebratory, and other times it is steeped in questions without answers, and anger and betrayal. Jesus promises to walk in the muck and gunk with us and appears to be unafraid and unapologetic about it.

 

BIG IDEA reminder…He WANTS to SEE us, He DESIRES to HEAR from us and ABOUT us, and HE YEARNS to LOVE us==no matter how badly we reek, how tattered our clothes appear, how many times we have made it to worship in a year. He wants us as we are, not all cleaned up and looking pretty.

The story of the Woman at the Well becomes even more remarkable when we see what happens with love empowers another. She becomes a disciple, telling everyone she can about the Messiah and Teacher that she had met. She spoke of the transformation that she felt knowing that this Man held her story and did not condemn her. I imagine Jesus again playing in the dirt as she describes her indiscretions and he seems unaffected when he tells her that he is not going to judge her and to go about her life in a different manner. HE has heard and he has seen who she is and what she can become with the influence of grace, compassion, and love. She responds to that and takes it back to her community and shares what she has learned. She shares who she has become and who she will continue to become because she is willing to share her story, admit it, and live into what it means for her life. Notice that the story does not become her life, it is part of her life, but the central focus of what she understands is Christ saw her, heard her, and loves her.

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