Where Is My Mommy?

(photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

His tiny fingers clutch

the wires of the cage,

crumbs of his world

scattered across the noisy

floor filled with other fingers,

toes, and sobs.  “Where is my Mommy?

I need to pee, and she will

tell me where to go.  I don’t

know these voices, these strange

arms that point this way and that. 

I dreamt last night that she came back

to me, but I awoke to noisy milk

and cereal, taste like bitter sand,

the kind my Mommy walked

me through, singing to me her songs

of north and hope. 

Mommy, where are you?

Mommy, is this north?

Mommy, will they hurt me if I cry?” 

*

“Where is my son?  I’ve never

felt so raw, so untethered to my life,

my world, my God.  We sank in the mud—

together, trudged the desert sands—

together, my one hand gripping his, pulling

him away from the gangs that banged

on our door each night, while we huddled—

together, in the trees behind our shack;

my other hand pointed always north;

but north has ripped us apart and will not

tell me where they’ve hidden my child.

‘Papers! Papers!’ harsh voices shout,

but all I can offer is my tattered

hope, my papers scorched in the

searing sun, drowned in the waters

through which we sloshed—

together. Where is my child?  

Will they hurt me if I cry?”

***

          July 26 was the deadline for reuniting families separated at the border under the “Zero Tolerance” program.  The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says it has reunited 1,442 children with a parent or parents.  However, about 700 children are still not reunited with their parents.  Some because of a parent’s criminal record.  Some because of communicable disease issues. Some because the parent or parents have been deported or have left the country of their own accord.  The Administration says it is continuing to work on behalf of the remaining children.  I hope!  I hope!  I hope!

       

Still Life with Tiny Tomato and Coin

          This picture arrived on my cell phone a couple of days ago.  First fruit of my granddaughter’s spring planting.  It’s not a cherry tomato, she told me.  Just a tiny tomato, hardly bigger than a quarter.  But so vibrantly red-ripe and filled with a juicy richness.  A July prize, to be sure. 

          Prizes in our culture so often go to the Big.  The bigger the better.  Big personalities.  Big Macs.  Big McMansions.  Big shopping malls.  Big mega-churches.  We like big, and so often we overlook the small.

          But isn’t it often the little things in life that offer the greatest rewards?  That unexpected hug.  That tear that rolls down a friend’s cheek when we unwind our woes to her.  That stranger who stops to help a wounded cyclist by the side of the road.*  That lone voice that cries out truth in a world that’s been smothered with lies.  That first tiny crocus that peeks its head above the last of winter’s snow. 

          Little things.  Little things that shine.  Thank you, granddaughter dear, thank you for this little picture—a big reminder not to overlook the little things in our lives, little things that offer sweet nourishment to meet some of our deepest needs. 

***

*A cycling member of our family was the recipient of “that stranger’s” help this weekend.  A little thing?  Certainly a very big thing in our lives.  We are so grateful!

Trinity

 

 

I went to church.

I did not worship.

I didn’t hear God in the thundering drums,

the acoustic guitars, or even the amplified

voice of the preacher; couldn’t see her smile

in the multitude of screens pasted across the walls,

in the strobe lights hyping the crowd;

others found God, I hope, but I left

with only emptiness cramming my pockets.

And then I saw these little flowers, so eloquent

in their white-tongued silence, whispering

something of the mystery of life;

three outer petals, star-white strong,

three inner petals, gossamer soft

and white as the wings of a moth,

three tiny white posts centering

and grounding them all into one;

white flowing into white into white,

strength into softness, and softness

into strength; one in three and three in one,

community of heaven in a tiny garden of earth,

mirroring the vastness of the triune love

that called their shining into life.

*

I pause in reverence, take off my shoes,

held close in deep, unfathomed holiness,

a holiness encompassing not only white,

but also tiny smudges of earth,

tiny smudges of you and me, perhaps,

in all our dust-to-dustiness,

our mortal groans and sighs,

our muddied lives of work and joy, embraced

in strong, eternal, burning white.

 

 

Pieta

“Dead Child,”Part of a Series entitled “Migrants”

Brazilian Painter, Candido Portinari (1903-1962)

          The dead child lies across his mother’s lap.  So the dead Jesus lies across his

mother’s lap in Michelangelo’s “Pieta.”

          Portinari’s mother weeps and echoes Mary’s sorrow.  The children standing around her weep.  They are poor.  They are weary.  They are hungry.  They are fleeing the unjust hardships of life in a forgotten corner of Brazil in 1944.

          But they are also Mary and Joseph fleeing the wrath of Herod and hoping to find safe asylum in Egypt.  They are also the Central American families who are fleeing the violence and injustice rampant in their homelands today.  They too are poor, weary, and hungry.  But they are following their dream, their hope of asylum, their hope of a new life of “liberty and justice for all” in the Land of the North. 

          Some of them will die along the way.  They have braced themselves and are prepared for this reality.  What they are not prepared for, however, is the reality they encounter when they reach the border of the Promised Land.  They know they are entering illegally, but they nevertheless hope their voices will be heard, their cases judged with fairness and compassion.  What they find instead is “Zero Tolerance.”  On April 6, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a Zero Tolerance program, determining that all illegal immigrants are to be referred for “criminal prosecution.”  Under this policy, children are not allowed to be with their parents, because the children are not charged with a crime, while the parents are.  About 2,000 children have to date been separated from their parents.

          The mothers weep.  The fathers weep.  The children weep.  Mary weeps. Jesus weeps, his life re-lived in the life of each child torn from her parents.

          Attorney General Sessions has used the Bible to defend this Zero Tolerance policy, quoting Romans 13, where we are admonished to be subject to the governing authorities.  He seems not to have noticed, however, that he and the administration with which he works are the governing authorities here, and that they are not carrying out an already existing law but are the very ones who have created this policy, a policy shunned by former Republican and Democratic administrations alike.  In quoting Romans 13, Mr. Sessons seems also not to have considered that, as a professing Christian, maybe he should take more seriously the directives of all of Scripture, notably Jesus’ words in Matthew 25, words or warning to all, but perhaps especially to those who are entrusted with the governance of their nations:        

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[g] you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  Matthew 25:31-46.

I was a stranger, and you did not welcome me.”

 

 

 

Farewell to a Beloved Dogwood

 

Last night the thwack of the axe,

the whine of the power saw;

I knew the end had come.

The wind of winter storms,

the weight of sodden snows of March

had broken her back, shredded her limbs,

numbered her days. Yet, one limb

somehow still intact, she sang her final hours,

her stubborn blossoms licked

the good air one last time,

tongues of white Pentecost flames

radiating life in the face of dangling death.

Well done, you dear, sweet, faithful tree.

Cambodian Silver Napkin Ring: for my Mother

in memory of my mother, missionary to Cambodia 1927-1954

Six intricate patterns etched

into this silver napkin ring,

all alike, yet not just quite, each shaped

and poked by grizzled peasant hands

in a far away land, in a far away time;

unnamed, unknown, an artisan at work. 

*

My mother stands at his market stall,

fingering the labyrinthine motif,

mirror of her own complexities,

her apprehensions, questions, joys, all

twisting through a life she can hardly imagine

to be real; birthing daughters

as she swelters in the tropic heat,

as she wraps her tongue around

strange words—Preahyesaou sraleanh—

“Jesus loves”—a love at times elusive

in a world so crowded with beliefs and fears

as ancient, as mysterious as the royal ruins

in the jungles of Angkor Wat.

*

She bargains with the seller,

counts out piaster bills, fondles

the ring, her luxury, rare treasure 

in a life severe and spare.

*

The ring now holds my napkin;

I stroke the tarnished band, trace

the patterns, irregular, complex;

the peasant’s life?  my mother’s life?

my own?  our fingers touch,

our stories merge, a tangled,

twisted circle of life.  

 

 

Facebook and the Road to Emmaus

“The Disciples at Emmaus”

Pupil of Rembrandt van Rijn (c 1655)

*

Luke 24:13-35 (see end of post for this text)

***

          I wonder.  If Cleopas and his friend had been on Facebook the day they took their long walk to Emmaus, would they have thought to post a picture of themselves walking along the road with this stranger?  Probably not.  They were sad.  Standing still sad, Luke tells us.  Numb.  Not long ago they had been celebrating as their leader had ridden into Jerusalem.  Had been so sure that God’s kingdom had come at last.  But then.  But then!  Just three days ago they had seen all their Messiah hopes hanging limp and lifeless on a cross. 

          So what now?  Then, too, what to make of the tale some of their women-folk were spreading?  An empty tomb and angels saying Jesus was alive again.  All too much.  A gray mist of doubts and questions shrouded their lives.  Nothing made any sense.  And then this intrusive stranger.  This intrusive stranger who seemed oblivious of all that was happening.  Not welcome.  Most certainly not a good time to post a FB picture.

          Most of our posts on FB are posts of fun, joy, beauty, and abundance in our lives.  Nothing wrong with this, but I worry sometimes that FB posting can be deceptive.  Deceptive, because it can project—not only to our friends, but to ourselves as well, the sense that our lives are, or at least are supposed to be, always carefree, beautiful, exciting.  Nothing amiss.  The sun forever shining on us.  Our cups always filled to the brim.  Evidence, we tend to think, though we’d never admit to this, that we are favored and blessed.

          Of course that’s not the way things are.  We all walk that dark road to Emmaus over and over and over again in our lives.  Hopes dashed.  Difficulties overwhelming.  Circumstances paralyzing.  Questions without answers.  Mists and doubts clouding our paths. 

          I’m most certainly not advocating we post these dark times on Facebook.  They are moments far too intimate to share on social media.  But I do want to urge myself and all of us to be fully present to these murky times.  To accept them, difficult as they may be.  To ponder them.  To pray through them.  Perhaps even to post these dark times on the facebook walls of our souls.  To re-visit them from time to time.  Let them help to keep us grounded in reality.  Let them remind us that life is forever filled with both abundance and emptiness.  “Abundance and destitution,” says Christian Wiman in My Bright Abyss, “are two facets of the one face of God, and to be spiritually alive in the fullest sense is to recall one when we are standing squarely in the midst of the other.”    

          To be spiritually alive in the fullest sense is also to remember that in every dark time, as well as in every bright time, the Stranger of Emmaus who “came near and went with them” also comes near and walks with us.  We may not always recognize him.  We may at times, like those Emmaus disciples, wish he would just leave us alone.  But always he walks with us.  Always he listens to us.  Always he blesses us with his very real presence.    

***

Luke 24:13-35

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.[b] 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth,[c] who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.[d] Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah[e] should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us[f] while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”