I had just finished a hospital visit and was texting a joke to my colleague as I walked through the parking lot. I looked up every so often, between finger taps, and stayed on the edge of the lot.
A car slowed down and the driver, a man, said something out the window.
I stopped texting. “I’m sorry — what was that?” I ducked my head to peer into his car. There was a woman in the passenger seat. Both were smiling.
“I’m sorry,” the man said. “I’m not trying to be rude, but I’m worried about you texting. You can’t tell what’s going on around you.”
“I know,” I said, “and I know it’s bad, and I do it anyway.”
“I know. And you never know if someone’s gonna sneak up behind you and steal your pocketbook.”
Both he and his passenger seemed kind, and embarrassed.
“Thank you for looking out for me.”
“I care about you,” said the man.
“Thank you.” We exchanged have-a-good-days, and then I said something I rarely say, even though I’m a pastor: “God bless you.”
I sat in my truck to finish the text, zipped the phone into my purse and drove off.
He wrote these poems while receiving cancer treatment that made his skin sensitive to the sun. If he wanted to take a daily walk, he had to do so in the dark.
I read these poems four years ago, on increasingly dark mornings. I read them slowly, aloud, while taking slow steps around my bedroom. I came across one I copied in my journal on October 22, 2014. Will God grace me with a marriage someday, I’d asked, — a good one? Will my childhood self finally know what she has only daydreamed about? Will it be all she hoped?
Windy and cold.
All night, in gusty winds, the house has cupped its hands around the steady candle of our marriage, the two of us braided together in sleep, and burning, yes, but slowly, giving off just enough light so that one of us, awakening frightened in darkness, can see.
The sermon is based on John 9:1-7. The title is “Everything Happens for a Reason.” If you, too, are done with that saying, click here to listen to the person who inspired me to delete that phrase from my vocabulary.
Now you know why, in lieu of wedding gifts, we asked people to donate to Reality,
and in lieu of album money, all proceeds go to Reality.
Living in North Street neighborhood for two years taught me that the kingdom of God isn’t about “inclusion,” as though some are “in” and some are “out” until those “in” deign to “include” them. No. It’s about plain belonging. We all belong to God, and to each other.
Thanks to this guy for introducing me to the term “marginalia.” Here are some recent markings:
Thanks to this gal for being my friend and for publishing a book.
[He uses the phrase “natural responsibilities,” “natural ordinances of life,” which got me thinking — what could be a more natural responsibility than raising kids? It is, indeed, a high priority — perhaps even an ideal. Yet if the Christian life is simply another priority, another ideal among several, then might the two compete? Another way to ask the question: If it were more faithful not to have kids, would I be willing not to?]
Mixed in with the paint, she used scratches and ash. Some of the ash banged off when we tried to hang the canvas.
An off-centered figure enters the painting, outlined in dark. I can’t tell if the figure is a man or a woman, and I think she did that on purpose. It has hands like mittens, cradling dark dirt.
Our bedroom is peppered with orange accents (which they say you’re not supposed to have in a bedroom, because the color wakes you up, but we do), so we wished her painting had orange. To match the pillows. We took the painting home and discovered that it did. The crouching figure, kneeling in the dust, has orange in its underarm, on its shoulder, dusting its kneecap. There’s orange smattered in the ashy chalk, orange highlighting knuckles. We were shocked. Now we loved the painting even more.
I waited patiently upon the LORD;
he stooped to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay;
he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.
Psalm 40:1-2, Book of Common Prayer
We prayed through the psalms as a neighborhood, gathering in a makeshift chapel with homemade paintings on the wall and candles with wicks that sounded like rain. One neighbor told us Psalm 40 was her birthday psalm, one she’d read daily for the year. She said she pictured God stooping to pick up a baby in a crib.