Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mission accomplished! Yay!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

the outward appearance of things....

Our boarder is still with us, and is looking at a small house (a rent to buy) tomorrow. He has already tried to check out two places, and both suddenly became unavailable upon further investigation. Our friend is black, and this is a small town, predominantly white. It crossed my mind early on and stayed in the back of my head...still honestly I never thought race would be a problem. But there doesn't seem to be any other real explanation. So tomorrow my husband and his mother are accompanying this man to his appointment. My husband's family has lived in this town since Moses left Egypt-I think Dave's grandmother must have rode the returning waves to America before Leif Erickson. So they do have name recognition and reputation capital to rely on. And can vouch for our friend's character, ability to pay, qualities that would make a trustworthy individual renter.

It got me to thinking. There is so much talk about racial issues in our country-so much about the generation gap, blah, blah...but it all comes down to individual people. I may not know about all the rest of the people of color in our country, but I do know our friend and I trust him. He's a good man. I don't know about this generation that supposedly is going to hell in a handbasket, but I do know my daughters and their friends. They don't look like me, nor do they necessarily think like I do, but they are faithful friends and my girls are loving individuals. Is it so hard to simply start a conversation with one person? I'm beyond tired of being categorized by religious beliefs, politics, sex, race, age, tattoos/no tattoos-the heart's the thing, and we're human after all.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

of birthdays, banquets, bedding and such....

Well, I guess we start with "birthdays"...on Saturday I finally got my official prison card from Brandon, and here was part of his note inside:

I'm guessing they only have one "Card, Birthday, Feminine" design made by New Zealand natives? Pretty damn lazy. Another thing, every time I send one of these out I realize I can't remember my own address. Well, when they print it for you on nearly every envelope they're just providing you means to become THAT slothful.

And so, my card, birthday, feminine finally made it!

Next we go to banquets...there was one on Friday night for the prison ministry I'm involved with, Providing Hope. PHM has two yearly banquets to promote the organization and raise money via donations and table sponsors. I couldn't find the Knights of Columbus (I guess they were out crusading somewhere)-it took two passes around town to realize I kept passing this outwardly nondescript stucco building, and that didn't do much for my already not terribly public mood. At any rate, finally I made my way to an empty chair and salad, and things got better from there. A ministry DVD was unveiled, and once again, I found myself rather wishing I thought more about my grooming on any given day, as I was a principle player in this film offering. The day Pastor Gaetano picked to come to the prison to film I had on a shirt that did nothing to de-emphasize certain aspects of my shape. Mercifully he shot me mostly from the neckline up. But it was well done and that's not end of the story...I was gifted with a copy of this "commercial" and took it to a local meeting the next day. A fellow leader asked to see it, I gave it to her, and it turns out her nephew was on the first screen shot-he was one of the speakers at the banquet with an amazing story of redemption and new life through Christ, and he started his own organization upon leaving to assist former inmates. Lisa got a huge surprise seeing all of this, as she did not know his story.

And finally, bedding-once again, another air mattress failed us, which in a way is funny, but when the gas tank is empty, the paycheck doesn't cover the bills, the fridge is also pretty bleak...there really wasn't room for even such a simple thing as new bedding. It was one of those times I didn't really even think about how much I know God can supply if I just trust and don't complain, but I did, in my head. And because I in my all-sufficiency, could really do nothing but complain, chuckle...God did. There was a check waiting for me in the mail-well, two actually-interest from a bank account I never really do much with, and payment for an art job I sort of gave up on. AND my husband, dear soul, stepped in and asked his mother if we could pinch a top mattress off her guest room bed temporarily. That worked.

So that was the weekend grab bag! Always interesting, always a few diamonds in the cracker jack.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

patriot saint

I wanted to write about at least one person who struggled mightily with spiritual convictions over politics and the world system, and found a means within that very system to leave the world an astounding legacy. Comparisons of movements and people to Hitler are plentiful today, and as soon as I hear them, I stop listening. We cannot comprehend the times, and feel very smug in our self-righteous assessment of it in making such comparisons. The man pictured is Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a native German who earned his doctorate by the age of 21 and became a much loved and respected spiritual leader in his homeland. It goes without saying he came of age after WWI when the German people were suffering bitterly in the aftermath of war. The link goes to a site which describes in detail his life and adult development in this fearful time when his faith was constantly at odds with an increasingly racist and oppressive government.

Bonhoeffer did have opportunity to travel after his schooling, and did spend time in America. He was much admired by the West, though his opinion of Western Christianity was not favorable. He felt more in tune with the pacifist philosophies espoused in the East and India, and saw more of Christ's teachings in Gandhi. He nurtured the Confessing Church in Germany, one body of believers openly opposed to Nazi philosophies, but still in concert with the scriptures and in terms of service to the oppressed Jews. In 1939 he had the opportunity to come back to America, and literally, into the arms of safety. He did come, but quickly left, knowing he could not preach with integrity and leave his native land floundering.

Upon his return to Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer made the choice to work for the resistance and was involved in a plot to kill Hitler. He also helped to rescue Jews and allow them safe passage out of the country. It was simply a time for action and a time when the faith which led him in the peace of green pastures, took him into the open and unprotected battlefields, using his influence to stop a madman. The plot failed, and those implicated with him were all put to death by a particularly gruesome method of hanging...naked from a piano wire noose suspended from a meat hook, which caused slow suffocation-the guards could not even watch.

At a time when the Christian church did little in the face of overwhelming evil and suffers historical indictment for it, Bonhoeffer stands out as one who acted when action was right. Those who did watch him go to his death remarked they had never seen such peace and composure. Reinhold Niebuhr, the man who wrote the very famous Serenity Prayer, was a dear friend. I want to include the complete prayer, because while we use it for 12 step groups today, it has such broader implications:

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change, the courage
to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know
the difference. Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship
as a pathway to peace. Taking as Jesus did this
sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that
You will make all things right if I surrender to Your
will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

questions and answers

I go to the local gym in the morning to exercise. I've found it's probably the only consistent thing I do well to keep my body in shape as I love to eat and dieting is not as exciting or fun as being around all that equipment. Plus usually an hour and I'm done. I do like using the treadmills, and two televisions are on in front of the machines to pass the time. I don't watch tv news, except at the gym. I usually depend on the computer for my news and related information.

I know we're coming into the most heated season of politics in American, a presidential race. Even the most apathetic person cannot help seeing or hearing something of the election. It's everywhere. And we complain. But it's good-a reminder that this IS America. It is also a time when I find myself questioning where I belong in the process. I'm first of all a citizen of heaven, secondly, an American. I love my country. I long to know according to my belief system, what is service to country? I find my heart saddened when I feel lumped into a category because of my faith. Most Christians I know vote with their conscience, not with any denomination or political stripe, and for some, this is the right choice. Many struggle deeply with questions and issues. And I know many on both sides of the party fence who are strongly committed to loving God and loving their fellow citizens.

Ever since Jesus was asked whether his disciples should pay taxes to Caesar, the question remains...His answer was, Render unto Caear that which is his, and render to God that which is His. This question was posed in the movie Sargent York-a favorite of mine. In that case a soldier who knew the commandments was pondering whether to enter WWI. A fellow soldier tried to argue scripture to the positive, and the discussion just kept going in circles. A wise officer just had the soldier read the history of the formation of our country, and the price paid for the freedoms we enjoy. He decided to fight. Whatever the fight is for each of us as individuals, the thing is-get into the process. This is a country of the people after all.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

long overdue visitation

Sunday was a beautiful day, bright and sunny for October. We finally made it to Somerset to see Brandon. I'll have to look at the blog and see if I can find the date the last time we were there. It was months, but I'm not sure how many. We had planned to go two weeks ago and I got sick. Then last week Dave had work he had to do for Monday. That's the life of a business owner. (I checked-June 30th).

So, anyway, we went. Oh, I need to insert a related story aside here-of course, going to the prison means getting change for vending machines. That's one of the biggest treats an inmate can enjoy. And every time I anticipated a trip out West, I got 25-30 one dollar bills in my return cash from the bank. Well, I went to the drive-through teller and asked for "thirty, one dollar bills". The teller who assisted me said, "I'm sorry, ma'am...we don't have thirty-one dollar bills". I had to go through the shpiel twice, and finally I said, "I need one dollar bills, thirty of them". It never occurred to me that I would be so misunderstood, and I'm not sure which of us felt stupider after that conversation.

Anyhoo, the day was good. Once again I did not recognize my son. He's lost a total of 75 pounds, and easily 30-40 between our last visit and this one. He's doing well, and it was evident that it had been too long between visits. We didn't stop talking for a minute it seemed like! I realize even more than I ever did, I want him home. I accepted the need for him to be away from this town, to pay his debt to society and to grow up apart from us, but I see the work being done and I'm ready for this to be over. Sincerely. I guess he's planning a belated birthday surprise for me, and I had to become involved because it requires finding one particular photograph of myself and Bran when he was under a year old. I remember when the pain of looking at those early photos just made me put albums away and out of sight. Well, now I'm ripping through them looking for that one particular shot-I'll be heartsick if I can't find it. I think the work that needed to be done is done. (I scanned a copy Bran sent-above)! My little guy.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Another not-so-well-known Van Gogh painting, "Sabbath Rest". (I did a Google search for images using the word, Sabbath, and that got me interesting results usually beginning with "Black", so I added the word rest). We still have a man living with us until he finds more permanent digs, and it's been the battle of the blow up mattresses, which has sort of become a metaphor for life these days. The first mattress I put in the room he's staying it lasted for about three weeks and sprung a seam leak. He was afraid to say anything, but it was hard not to notice a flat mattress in the room in the morning for no particular reason, and the sound of the air gun to blow it up at all hours. So during my recovery from the plague, I ran to Penney's and picked up a single chamber, outdoor camping style thing. It sprung a pinhole leak in less than two weeks and the same routine happened again. So yesterday between classes I picked up a small double decker with a pillow form on top. Ok. We shall see how long this lasts!

There is something rather sad about a slowly deflating mattress. The inability to change the situation and the general ease of making it much worse, the small sssssss of air leading to a corresponding loss of comfort that will not end until you're on wooden floor planks. And there is nothing that can be done to stave off the floor. Eric, my husband and I got a good laugh out of such an irritating thing and we all agreed, we are sort of all on life's mattress with the circumstances going ssssss out from under us. Eric is working 12-16 hours every day at a waste management plant. How he does this I do not know, and his wage is so low in comparison to the effort he puts forth it's ridiculous...my husband is back down to himself as his own employee, which means weekends and 12 hour days until the volume goes back up, whenever that may be. I am running. All the time. Running to class to get skills for a decent job, running my kid to work, to school, to whatever, ministry responsibilities....sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss.

We cannot do anything about the pressure of living. We all know we are where God wants us. All of us cannot leave the situations we are in without something serious falling to the wayside. We can do something about the ssssssssssss. Sabbath is the literal emotional, spiritual and physical mattress that maintains the comfort of the soul. A friend is combining a motorcycle trip of a lifetime out West with other responsibilities. There has to be, within a day, a week, a lifetime, times that simply bolster and restore the soul, that cause rest. If that does not happen, we're on wooden planks without a fill kit.