Wendell Berry: Everything is Here

Everything is Here

Geese appear high over us,

pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,

as in love or sleep, holds

them to their way, clear

in the ancient faith: what we we need

is here. And we pray, not

for new earth or heaven, but to be

quiet in heart, and in eye,

clear. What we need is here.

~ Wendell Berry

Forgiveness Friday: Sometimes It Takes Going Through the Roof

Maybe the reason that life puts pebbles in our shoes and smudge marks on our eyeglasses is that we are living in a cosmic comic strip with only five windows, and the last one always contains dialogue that says: “I can’t do this alone.”

I mentioned the other day that I wanted to find something to put on my desk as a tactile reminder that self-doubt will keep me from experiencing what someone described to me in a letter during last year’s Lent.

The letter says:

“God is present in all things and “everything is grace.”

I found a perfectly snarky reminder to continue this work of allowing myself to experience what is good and real, rather than to spend my whole day in repose due to my pebble injuries and blurred vision. Here is JerkFace in full glory.

Perfect if I do say so myself. What a snot, eh? The fellow at the store said “you can keep him at your desk and at least one of you will be relaxed.” Exactly. JerkFace hasn’t a care in the world, and is full of high falutin’ criticism, smack talk and derogatory sass.

The only problem with my find is that this little thing is so stinking cute and so me. This is the version of me that turns my family blue in the face. One of them told me in no uncertain terms just this morning:

“You just check out and we can’t even figure out

anything about you.”

It’s true. Much of the time I am enveloped by some sort of dark struggle, or recovering by way of a triple blanket bed cave with a book. Anne Lamott describes this need to give pain a full-fledged examination:

“And I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that there could be no real joy again, that at best there might eventually be a little contentment. Everyone wanted me to get help and rejoin life, pick up the pieces and move on, and I tried to, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in the mud with my arms wrapped around myself, eyes closed, grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore.”
Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year

Thankfully, SweetCheeks, my desktop compass toward grace in the form of a desk decoration is much bigger than silly little JerkFace.

What would I do without my family who is willing to forgive me and call me in out of the rain time after time, cartoon strip after cartoon strip? Just like in this weekend’s Gospel story, they are always there the next day, ready to haul my sorry can to some new spot in the sand as the tides ebb and flow.

With absolutely no exception, this weekend’s Gospel story is my favorite. In the story

3 …four men tried to bring in a paralyzed man on a stretcher, 4 but could not reach Jesus because of the crowd. So, they removed the roof above Jesus, dug through the ceiling, and lowered the man.  (Mark 2)

Can you even imagine this? Oh come on, don’t be a jerkface, let go and imaaaaagine the drama of being that guy on the stretcher. Or the people underneath trying to follow the rules and wait in line, and then someone cuts in line by way of the roof?

I have a painting in my office made for me by an Appalachian artist name Charley Kinney. He made it for me when I told him that this healing story was my favorite gospel tale. At the bottom of the painting Charley wrote: “Christ healen peple.”

The drama of the story is epic, but what is transformative is the message.

Jesus says to the man:

9 “What’s easier to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up, pick up your stretcher, and walk.’ 10 So you’ll know that the Son of Man has the power to forgive sins here and now,” Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and told him, 11 “Get up, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”

That is faith.

That, is faith.

“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had

a better past.”
Anne Lamott

Speed bump after speed bump, fall after fall, stupid pebble after stupid pebble, faith is the confidence that we are worthy of the tender care given to us in the oddest ways, day after day after day.

And then again, on another day.

Forgiveness Friday: Raspberry Frozen Custard

Not long before my mother passed away, I’d say thirty or forty-five minutes prior, she received communion from my Godfather David.

She and I were the church goers of the family, so after 11:30 Mass, Dave and I met back at my parents house. My father and brother were kind enough to let the three of us have time alone.

It had been hard to tell that morning if she was conscious or not, and if so what she was wanting to say. It’s been more than six years, so it could be that I just don’t want to remember trying to understand what she was trying to communicate. I do remember the odd feeling of watching her eyes be open, and seeing that sometimes they were in focus with us, and much of the rest of the time she had clearly gone somewhere else.

So. Earlier in church, Dave and I had a, is “nice” the word? Yes. We had a nice time together in Mass despite our grief and frustration as we waited to let her go. I’d been staying at his house. Always the positive one, he smiled as we split up to meet back at my parents house as if we were meeting at the ice cream place for a frozen custard in a bit.

Oh my goodness, I’d forgotten something until this very moment! We also had his two grown sons and my three-year old boy in the pew with us. For some odd reason my Joe had been still and entertained with Dave’s effort to draw a train. I’d forgotten that!

I also have remembered more than once what a comfort it was to sit next to Dave’s son Dan – once a baby I rocked to sleep, that day his smile looked down from well over six feet.

In any case, when Dave arrived to visit my mother and I, she went from seemingly unconscious to greeting him with full focus and saying “David!” in exactly the same deep voice that she’d ever greeted him before.

One of the blessings of grief is that over time, though it never, ever get’s “easier,” it changes. This many years later, as I write from miles away from each of the characters of this memory, I can honestly say, it’s okay.

Well, not perfectly. I’m homesick for each and every one in this memory – Dave is still in Pennsylvania where we once all lived, my father now lives in Florida, I’ve moved to Iowa and Dan is living a stones throw from our hometown in Southern Ohio where my family just moved from.

(Joe’s in bed right over there though, both dogs well tucked under his arms.)

Perhaps it’s not too soon to plan for a raspberry frozen custard at Hank’s when we meet up in the keystone state next summer.