Inside Out

art_inside_out

I cringed so hard, my body folded in on itself and turned inside out. My vessels now hang out in the sun to dry; I put food into my oral cavity but it has nowhere to go and rots in my new skintestines. I’m losing weight, since my stomach is on the outside of my body now and there’s no way to get food to it. My dry flesh gums the food I cram inside the opening, but it goes nowhere.

My children don’t kiss me anymore – “Your teeth look weird on the outside!” my boy says, and “I miss your lips! Where am I supposed to kiss, Mama?” cries my little girl. They’ve stopped hugging me, they’re so afraid of bruising me deep inside by a simple bump on my new external layer.

My tongue flaps outside in the air, dehydrating, with no roof or lips against which to rub to make meaningful sounds. No one can hear what I’m trying to say — least of all the people I want to hear me. I need them to hear me.

I’m aware that you look at me now and see a monster — or an exhibit at the science museum.

I’m still a woman. I’m the same woman on the outside, and on the inside, only now I look different to you. I’m unrecognizable, and I’m mortified for you to see my sickening, naked structure. I’m lonely, longing, humiliated. 

art_peel

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Working in the Dark

Blind woman who gets lost from the curb to the door of her workplace: “It’s hard when you’re in the dark all the time. It’s always dark for me.”

Vocational counselor: “But you’ll be so good at getting around, better than your friends who can see. Your sighted friends can only see in the light, so they don’t know how to find their way at night when it’s dark. And you will!”

There’s a metaphor in there. And it’s beautiful, but I can’t nail it down for the tragedy of this woman losing her sight in her forties. After a lifetime of seeing, she’s doing pretty well just to get up in the morning and move past her grief, let alone making it to work to stand and chop vegetables all day. Yes. She chops vegetables. In the dark. For hours at a time. Without cutting a finger. Imagine the courage that takes. 

So she gets a little lost on the way to clock in, and people find her in the store room off the loading dock. And she can laugh about it. She’s doing great.

Would I?

Do Acts of Social Justice Count if They’re Compensated? Or am I just a goat?

Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

   I was hungry and you fed me, 
   I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, 
   I was homeless and you gave me a room, 
   I was shivering and you gave me clothes, 
   I was sick and you stopped to visit, 
   I was in prison and you came to me.'”

So I’ve been talking a big game about seeking God in the eyes of “the least of these.” More and more, I’m convinced that believers must vacate their circles of folding chairs to find Christ, not in a book or by exercising our well toned self-scrutiny muscles, but in the eyes of those for whom Jesus had a heart while he walked the planet. The poor in spirit, the poor in pocket, the widow, the orphan, the hungry, the cold, the sick, the imprisoned. And so like any good action-oriented American, I’ve decided to hunt for an appropriate outlet in my community — food pantries, missions for international adoptions, mentorships to teen mothers — since ain’t no alleys here in the most affluent county in America in which to find God. 

And then a job dropped in my lap. Out of the blue. Helping the blind. Now, Jesus seemed particularly compassionate toward the blind. They didn’t make the Matthew 25 list, no, but I’m thinking they count as overlooked.

My friend Bubba pointed out that it’s (my church) “Grace’s social justice orientation with legs.” But does it count as sheep status if I get paid to help the visually impaired find work? And what does it say about my heart that I’m crestfallen that the job isn’t what I asked for? See, I’ve been looking for steady writing work and recently made the short list for a high-paying position with a prestigious advertising firm. I’ve been seeking a glamorous job while looking for an extracurricular least-of-these application to satisfy my requirement to find and serve Jesus.

So my question is this. Do acts of social justice count if the doer receives a paycheck for those acts? 

 41-43“Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because— 

   I was hungry and you gave me no meal, 
   I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 
   I was homeless and you gave me no bed, 
   I was shivering and you gave me no clothes, 
   Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

 44“Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

 45“He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.'”

Am I a goat? Am I a sheep? Will I see Jesus in the eyes of the blind? Because I really want to see Jesus. That’s what drives me to do anything good.

Jesus wasn’t in my Bible this morning (but he was on my porch)

So, like the good evangelical Christian woman I never was, I made myself go to a quiet place to exercise the spiritual disciplines of Bible study and prayer. Coffee cup in hand, I settled into the comfy brown chair on my screened porch feeling the warmth of the morning sun on my face. I swatted the familiar gnat-like fog of guilt that hovers around the veil and obscures my earthly vision. I strained to see the divine, prayed, “Please help,” and turned to Scripture.

See, I’ve recently returned to the fold of Wednesday morning women’s Christianity after months of wandering in the wilderness with Traci, a writer friend of mine who’s also an atheist. I’m happy to be back, but a fish out of water feeling surprises me. The thoughts I had and documented on our project seem to have taken root in my gut. Turns out the experience really did change me and the way I approach and experience God and traditional Bible study.

This morning when I sat down to study and pray in the old way, I had that fleeting feeling of frustration and distance from God, the sense that I’m just not spiritual enough, I’m not doing something right. When I cried out to him, the darndest thing happened. Jesus spoke. He said to me, “I’m not in there.”
“Huh?” I said.
“I’m in the streets. I’m at Wheeler Mission. I’m in the trailers where children hide from hurt and homes where families go hungry this very moment. I am the battered women at Third Phase where women go for food and a fresh start. Encourage them, feed their babies, and you encourage and feed me.”
“So, wow. Those impressions you gave me back on the Beth and Traci thing weren’t just sensationalism? Not just entertaining and provocative writing points?”
“No, dear, they were my truth. If you want to see me, go to those places. If you want to store my words in your heart, do dive into my word. But remember, I am the Word. Don’t feel bad if you don’t see and feel me when you open those pages. I’ll touch you through the words as the Counselor wills. But remember what you read in that book Amy Lickliter gave you?”
“Yeah, what was that called?”
God in the Alley.”
“Oh, that’s right. Thanks for reminding me.”
“You’re welcome. Yes, your brother Greg Paul wrote the truth that I want you and others blessed by suburban comforts to know and act upon — that you are to be and see Me in a broken world.”

Ahh, what sweet relief that the Word is Jesus. The word — God’s word, He was sweet to remind me, is a double-edged sword, living and active. But it is not He. He never says, “I am the Bible.”

I need to see Jesus, immerse myself in my beloved, radical Savior by going to –NO, by seeking out the hurting, broken, hungry, imprisoned, poor, disenfranchised, unlovely and unlovable. Immerse myself in them.

Be Him for — and see Him in — “the injured,” emotionally or physically, and the spiritually and physically hungry.


Jen Sherrick Shot My Babies and My Heart

(With her Canon.)

This photographer sees the beauty I see in my children and captures it on film. More examples in a later post, but check this artist’s work on Jen’s website. And see the cutie brother and sister on her blog!

Yep, on the July 14 post, them’s my babies!

Here’s the headshot Jack used for his IRT audition today, his 12th birthday! (It’s from a scan, so it’s not as clear as the real thing.)

Not a professional shot:

My Big Birthday Boy!
My Big Birthday Boy!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JACK!!!

No Fear in the Light

God is good. He just is. 

Luke 12:2-3

There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.

1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

Summer sunset over Indiana.

 

A Milestone Letter from Camp

Is a picture really worth a thousand words? Are the words true? Can I trust the words? Whose words are they? And is no news good news?

Today, on my son’s fourth day of camp, my husband brought the mail in and announced, “Mail call! A letter from camp!” Last year my son went to camp but did not write to me. Holding the envelope addressed with familiar printing in my hand, I felt a mixture of pride, anticipation and sentimentality. “Oh, my little boy is growing up. I’m going to put this milestone letter in a scrapbook to bring out when he and his wife and children visit me someday.” These thoughts and others predicting the content of the letter flooded my mind in the fifteen seconds it took me to carefully open the envelope. I did not expect to read the following words.

MOM

HELP!

I’m serious.

JACK

I called the camp and waited two agonizing hours for the camp people to locate my son and find out if he was okay. I bathed, got dressed and prepared to drive the two hours to pick him up.

Finally, the camp director called to relieve my fears. Turns out he had transmitted his distress signal on the second day of camp, after his first night of a cold, cold (60 degree) night. (I was excited for him to have “real camp weather,” a relief from the sweltering, sticky 90 degree nights he endured last summer.) “He thought you either didn’t get the letter or figured he was kidding…and was glad you didn’t come pick him up.” WHEW!

So I’ll still put the letter in a scrapbook and hope that next year he writes a more newsy letter. 

Or no letter at all. That’d be fine.

(Fun on the Blob – A thousand words of evidence off the SpringHill website proving that the crisis has passed.)

NOT – See next post – “NOT A LAUGHING MATTER.”

My Wicked Funny Husband

My husband is hilarious. It’s one of the many reasons I love him. Another appealing quality is his natural ability to Get Things Done. He’s a strong, assertive man. Forceful yet smooth.

Take, for instance, our trip to Chicago last weekend. After our “Wicked” matinee, I decided we’d try one of the top restaurants in Chicago, Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill, seating capacity 65. In a city of close to three million people, to think we could be seated at 6pm on a Saturday night — with two kids in tow — is something only a coupla hoosiers would be foolish enough to think they could do. But we were one five-dollar cab ride away so heck, we gave it a shot.

And speaking of shots, the only alcohol on the menu at the celebrated chef’s downtown restaurant is tequila. My husband, being the vodka man that he is, took one for the team, sucked it up and ordered two margaritas for our two-hour wait.

I should back up. The maitre de (which is French for master of) first greeted our party of four with cool courtesy, telling us to take a walk and try back in a half hour for a pager. I smiled, turned on my heel and herded the fam back out to the sidewalk of Clark Street across from an adult bookstore. We walked a few blocks, grabbed some bottled juice for the kids to tide them over and returned thirty minutes later for our pager. Looking surprised by our commitment to dining at Frontera, the maitre de relinquished a pager which I handed to the husband.

For fifteen minutes the four of us tried to make ourselves inconspicuous and out of the way of the adult patrons, scrunching ourselves as close as possible to the the shelves displaying an array of Rick Bayless cookbooks and Frontera sauces. Dan disappeared into the swankified bar (seats 30) for grown-up drinks and returned with two identical glasses full of tart, pale green, high octane liquids. I sucked my delectable happy potion in under five minutes, and my husband nursed his conservatively. Two chairs opened in the waiting area opened, and we seated the kids with instructions to be on their very best fine restaurant behavior.

Five minutes later, Mr. Bates handed me his drink. “I just don’t like lime.” Oh happy day! Two more chairs opened – our luck continued! The kids were content, we had seats for the next hour of waiting, and I had me a fresh, fabulous, barely dented margarita. One or two minutes later, when the master of the restaurant stepped away, my husband stood and approached the maitre de station. A hostess peeked over at me briefly, and Dan turned to tell us, “Okay. Here we go.” Pleasantly surprised, the children and I followed him to the table where we celebrated with joy the freshest, most flavorful meal we’ve shared as a family.

Over coffee and flan for two I said, “Honey, I’m surprised we got in so quickly.” He smirked. I said, “What? What’d you do?”

“Heart,” he said. I had a heart attack five years ago, which became useful and necessary to invoke in order to avoid lines and long waits in the months during my recovery.

“What did you say?!” I laughed.

“I just told her, ‘My wife had a heart attack. If she has to wait too long, she drinks too much,'” he said. (That’s when the hostess peered over at two-fisted me sitting there holding two margarita glasses.)

I laughed harder and more loudly than I have in, I’d say years. Though the alcohol had mellowed in my system since those earlier cocktails, my son said, “Mom’s smashed!” I was smashed on giddy joy, and as we sauntered down Wacker back to our hotel, I laughed all the way at my husband’s hilarious resourcefulness. I love him.

With all my heart.