Category Archives: 250 words

Different Way

amsurry“In his Speeches On Religion to its Cultured Despisers, Friedrich Schleiermacher identified retribution as the single most distinctive feature of the Old Testament, but also one that had been permanently rejected by Jesus and the New Testament, thus surviving legitimately only in Judaism. Schleiermacher saw Old Testament retribution as superseded by New Testament forgiveness, the Old Testament’s portrayal of a God of wrath corrected by the New Testament’s depiction of a God of love – a view that survives Schleiermacher quite successfully in many contemporary Christian churches and communities.” – Stephen B. Chapman

Have we gotten over “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth” living (Exodus 21:23-25, Leviticus 24:17-21)? It’s the kind of living, you know, where if someone hurts us – we hurt them back? If they say something mean to us, we don’t like them? If they hurt our family, we go after them? (This has come up on Twitter quite a bit – “just let them touch my family.” Sounds good – sorta – but it’s a bogus Christian attitude.) If they steal from me, I’m all over them?

Admittedly, getting back at someone feels good on one level sometimes, doesn’t it? We all have either done it or wished it. Thing is, it isn’t how God treats us so it isn’t how we should treat others. Instead of vengeance, we need to work things out or simply drop it and move on. And I understand that this, for some, can be very hard.

Fact is, Jesus is God’s retribution now. Jesus does it for us. Let’s let him take care of things and free ourselves up for more time to forgive, love, and grant mercy.

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Trimming Flowers

proonerClayton came over and we spent four or five hours under the sun and shade talking about anything that came to mind. One of the things I enjoyed the most was letting Clayton tell me how to trim and prune my plants. He showed me where to cut back and told me when to cut back.

When talking about one set of plants, he said something like, “And if you trim these regularly, they will keep growing and blooming and begin to hang out of their planters all summer – until the first frost.” As he said this, he spread his arms wide and showed me how full and long they would grow. So this afternoon, I trimmed and cleared them and they look great this evening. I’m excited to see what happens.

He talked about another set of plants. “Oh, these will climb. It’s funny how they like to climb to the sun. It’s like a magnet or something.” Also this afternoon, I built some trellises and, even as I sit here and look at the plants and their new trellises, I’m imaging the pretty flowers reaching out and up to the sun like hungry, little magnets.

Clayton talks about new plants as if they are fragile and dependent children. They need some care, nurturing, and sorting. But then, when they begin to take hold, they grow up to be strong, resilient, and beautiful.

Thanks, Clayton, for a life lesson using my plants.

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Special Reminders

sumspuzzaEvery time I call Sam’s Pizza for delivery or go by to pick up a carry-out order, they ask for my home phone. This has been happening for two years and is not a surprise, but it makes me grimace every time. I give them my home phone and they say, “Regina?” “Yes,” I say. They acknowledge my affirmation and proceed with my order.

What should I do? It hurts a bit each time it happens, I’ll admit. But, I also don’t want to let it go, either. It’s something like the automated phone calls I still get from Stafford County Public Schools and from Rockhill Elementary reminding me about Field Day, Funny-Clothes Friday, inclement weather policies, or teacher workdays. It tingles just slightly but, somehow, I don’t want to give it up. I’ve had to give up so much in the last two years.

Coincidentally (or not?), in the last two days I have had two separate and good conversations about Regina with people who knew her and cared deeply for her. As I’ve said before, it still hurts incredibly to think and talk about her, but it also makes me feel better to know that she isn’t forgotten and that we can somehow remember and deal with things. I really appreciate these two for not being squeamish and for being able to plow into a difficult and scary topic. But it means so much to me. I guess, again, I’m afraid we all might forget her and I wouldn’t like that so as much as it hurts, I need and want to talk about her in the right places and at the right times.

This month – June – is the two-year anniversary of the hardest month of my life.

· 1 Comment. Posted in 250 words, grief.

Unwilling Kill

chespecesI played chess with a friend a few days ago. It has been a few years since I last played. (I think the last time I played was with Koa – a very able adversary!) I’m not very competitive and would rather negotiate a mutual peace but in chess (or most games!), this isn’t how things work, of course. I really didn’t care if I won or lost but I certainly didn’t want to get into some kind of world-war scenario. Actually, knowing my friend, this wasn’t going to happen, but what if?

So off we went. A piece here. A piece there. My strategy, as I told my opponent, really was never beyond the next two or three moves. A Kasparov or Fischer, I am not! This was more like walking around an empty basement with a flashlight with bad batteries. Two hours we plodded – there was excitement and confusion and killing er pieces taking pieces.

But then the end was coming near. And it was my fortune to mostly be on top (and certainly not due to my partner’s lack of skill – it was more about karma, I think). Well, I don’t like bloody, demeaning, dehumanizing, ignoble, shameful endings. I proffered the granting of a merciful surrender and that was good enough for me. We didn’t have to play until I crushed my opponent’s head, stuck sticks in the king’s eyes, slaughtered every last piece on the board, and, essentially, wiped the realm of my adversary off the face of the map. Can’t we all just get along? I thought I was being noble and kind by offering generous terms of surrender.

But nooooooo! This was going to be to the death. And, yes, it finally came.

I have apologized several times since the massacre. I still feel bad. (I continue to have close feelings for my friend despite the inhumane slaughter!)

· 1 Comment. Posted in 250 words.

Beauty Inside

inbeatyBeauty can’t be hidden. Regardless of how hard someone or something might try to hide beauty, it always shines out like a bright light. In death and decay, the beauty of a sincere smile always overcomes. Even in the middle of challenge and hard work, a sparkling eye and kind word beats them all. Inner beauty translates to outer beauty, too. Strange how a frazzled-looking person on the outside can seem beautiful to others due to reputation, kindness, and sincerity. Wrinkles, bad-hair-day, ill-matched clothes, or even a little dirt and grit somehow melts away when there’s inner beauty in a person. Even bad, horrible, incredibly miserable days can’t wipe out the beauty in a person – it endures and sustains.

Regardless of appearance, things like grace, empathy, kindness, and patience sticks. Other people don’t quickly forget someone who was kind and endearing to them – especially when the individuals were in need. It’s obvious and needs little reminding, but appearances are fleeting and sudden. What remains far more permanent are ideas and motives. Scrub as hard as you can, but you can’t wash away words said in anger, hurtful attitudes, or impatience. On the other hand, and as I have already said, just try hiding beauty of soul and mind – it’s impossible.

And thank goodness, yes? As we get beyond the necessary (seemingly, for many) futile endeavors to maintain outward appearance, gracious and sincere people will remain and, perhaps, even become more beautiful with wisdom and age.

It’s a God-thing. And I’m thankful for it.

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Gut Punch

ARTIST'S VIEW OF BLACK HOLE IN GLOBULAR CLUSTERIt happens. It happens to you and it happens to me. It’s part of the risk of maintaining a close relationship with someone. I suppose one option would be to not have any relationships but wouldn’t that make for a very dry and lonely existence?

Just when one thinks things are going along okay and there seems nothing but light ripples on the surface, a huge shark leaps out of the water, snaps the boat in half, and makes away with everything that’s left over from the debacle. You know what I mean. In a close relationship, nothing seems amiss, all seems perky, and there doesn’t seem much to worry about – it’s good to have a close friend. And then it happens. Like a lightning bolt, it’s over! Of course, someone has the temerity to say, “But we can still be friends.” No, that won’t work. We’ve invested years or decades into a relationship and now you’ve put miles and miles of darkness between us? It’ll be tough to be friends. It sounds like a good idea but I’ve never seen it work too well.

So what happens?

1. What did I do? I beg you to tell me – what did I do?

2. It hurts. In our friendship, we weren’t really being open and honest with each other, were we? That’s painful to think about.

3. What about the memories and investments we’ve made together? Do I just trash them? Burn them?

4. Why can’t we talk about this? We all reach the end of our rope sometimes. Maybe talking would have helped and prevented this break-up. It’s possible.

5. All that’s left is a big, empty, black hole now.

6. Can’t we try to work this out? It’s never too late, is it?

It feels like I’ve been punched in the gut.

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Spontaneous Lunch

Want to do lunch in 30 minutes, I texted. I’m out running some errands. If you are free. Sure. I need to go through the carwash first. Hmm, I’ve never been to this carwash. Where do you want to go to eat? Somewhere easy and where we can talk and be comfortable. Okay. How is this? No. Well, how about here? No. Okay, here? No way. You’re just picking places you know I don’t like. Well, you pick a place, then. Okay, here. Perfect. Let’s not talk about anything sad and let’s not talk about problems, okay? Agreed. This looks dangerous but tasty. I think I will just get an appetizer – I’m not that hungry. And the mango tea is good. This is nice – the back of the restaurant. No one really around us too close. Sweet! Well, this is kind of sad and I am okay but let’s talk about it for just a second. It was sad but I’m better now. It’s just something I’ll have to get used to. I didn’t know it was so bad until the x-rays. I’m sorry. I feel for you. Okay, enough. And about those Youtube interviews. So cool. Yes, I know every person and where they come from and who is married. I know lots about them. Go see them when you’re out there. No, that’s not what I do. Seriously. No, go stand in their lobby and tell them “big fan” and take some selfies and just be crazy. No! I’m not doing that. Sometimes they have these table conversations where they answer questions from fans or they might talk about the latest memes on the Internet or they might just talk about stuff. How did they get their jobs? Auditions, mostly. And they created a really popular show. No, no dessert, thanks. Just the check. Let’s go. Why does that lady have devil eye makeup eyeliner? Maybe too much or something? That was nice. Yes, nice. Thanks for lunch. We’ll do it again. It’s okay.

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Too Loud

ABPB1R / Man Covering His EarsHe said he was tired. He was thumbing through a set of movies in the living room. He said he likes to watch two movies each evening – that’s his routine. He then goes to bed at 10:30pm. He was fairly insistent that I not break this routine, thank you.

His wife was in the bedroom next to the living room. She was asleep and would probably not wake up again. She still had color in her face and, actually, looked pretty good. But we all knew that the toll was being taken slowly, surely, predictably. Her hair was combed and she had been set up on a pillow so she could “watch” TV. It was on and turned up quite loud. This was, he explained, her routine every night.

And so routine was the desire and expectation despite what was going to happen in a few days. He said this is how their evenings had been for as long as they had lived in their apartment – several years, at least.

I understood. While it might seem that one would be smothering the other one who is getting ready to pass, I remember how tired I was. My context and senses were set on NUMB. I understood, I think, the gravity of the situation but I simply didn’t have the energy to hover, grope, fear, worry. It wasn’t denial. Rather, it was like a trance. Autopilot. Zombie-like. Yes. I understood him. Completely.

And when I left, I sat down at a table in the waiting area and wept. His tears would come soon enough. But he was where he was – a place that’s pretty lonely and desolate. It would come. But for now, he was doing all he could do. And I hurt for him. I understood.

I left him as he started his second movie. She slept with her TV turned up too loud.

It’s Tues, May 20, at 3:15pm as I write this updating postscript. I just received word that she passed shortly after I left on Sat night last week. It was peaceful. She had her husband of 65 years at her side.

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Moral Compass

mcompassesAdy and I spent quite a bit of time talking about moral compasses. Who is the moral compass in Romania? Who is the moral compass in the local church? Who is the moral compass in the family? Who is the moral compass in world geopolitics? For some reason, we somewhat latched to the phrase “moral compass” and hung on for some time. It seemed to intrigue both of us.

I still ask the question, “Who or what is the moral compass in ______?” Every group of people has a leader. Every bunch of groups has a lead group. Every movement has a direction. Every idea is driven by a core belief of some kind. Leaders have a reason for leading. Followers have a reason for following. All of these examples lead me to ask, “Who or what is the moral compass and which direction is it pointing?”

Of course, the “moral” part may actually be “immoral” or “amoral.” But you get the idea. Merely getting out of bed in the morning is driven by something – what is the moral motivation to move?

One brief thought – it seems to me that many live with and accept a spinning compass. One moment it points one way and the next it points another. It’s like typing in an address in GPS and in one instance, it gives directions to one location. But the next time with the same, exact address, the GPS gives directions to an entirely different location. And some of us live like this without question. It seems, for many, to be okay to live without a set direction, a North Star, a fixed direction.

Perhaps for some, the whole idea of “moral compass” is foreign. Who needs such a thing? “I am who I am and I can do what I want to do and that is all I need,” some might say. “Silly idea to have a set course.”

Well, okay. Except that with no heading and awareness of course you will inevitably end up as a shipwreck on the shore’s rocks. So it goes without a sense of direction and purpose.

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Good Stuff

buggersThe prognosis is that I will live but, as my doctor said, “You don’t have any good stuff in you. What happened? We need to fix that.”

So here is the brief story. I came back from Romania recovering from a pretty bad gastrointestinal attack – I thought I was going to die except that Ady and Luma kept me alive. Seriously, it was pretty bad.

Anyway, somehow in all of the kerfuffle, all of the “good stuff” bacteria in my guts was killed off. It might have been external things that got inside or it might have been meds or it might have simply been my time, but, regardless, there was nothing in me to serve as a catalyst to get my digestive processes running and humming. And the result is – pretty bad!

And that’s why, after samples and tests, Dr. Schultz said, “You don’t have any good stuff in you.” To which he prescribed heavy doses of probiotics, three 4oz containers of Activia yogurt a day, and two small bottles of Gatorade a day. The idea was to reintroduce the “good stuff” bacteria back into my system. The probiotics and yogurt, of course, is loaded with “good stuff” bacteria and the Gatorade is loaded with electrolytes to help recover from dehydration.

And, after several days of this regimen, I actually think I am going to live. Thank goodness.

But what I have been considering all along is this – if there isn’t “good stuff” in me, I won’t thrive and feel well. What’s loaded into my heart, soul, and brain? Is it “bad stuff?” Is it dark, oozy, nasty, and vile? Does it creep in or do I, maybe, even let it in?

Or am I loaded with “good stuff?” Is it pleasing, comfortable, satisfying, and encouraging? Does it feel good? Does it keep me spiritually healthy and does it keep me running and humming?

The prescription for all of us is this – healthy doses of “good stuff” every day. And we will all feel better. For sure.

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