Lock-Down: The confining of prisoners to their cells after an escape or to regain control during a riot. A state of isolation or restricted access as a security measure.

kids behind bars

When I was in second and third grade, I can remember having drills where we would go out in the hallway, sit on the floor with our backs against the wall, put our heads on our knees, and finally, put our hands on our heads. This was to protect us in the event of nuclear attack. I remember being afraid that if some man named Barry Goldwater got elected as President, there would be nuclear war.

I recently overheard my daughter and some friends talking about a lock-down drill that they had had in school that day. I asked them what a lock-down drill was. They told me that they practice what to do if a person or persons enter the school with guns and start shooting people. I asked them what they practice.

It goes something like this.

Two students are assigned to move the teachers desk to block the door. One student is assigned to turn off the lights. The other students then pile desks and/or chairs on the teacher’s desk (they don’t actually practice this part). Then they all go to a corner of the room, out of line of the door, and stay on the floor away from all windows. They are allowed to call and text out. My daughter told me I would be the first person she would text. I asked her to call just to make sure she got hold of me quickly.

My daughter goes to a vocational high school, so she and her friends then calmly discussed the advantages of being trapped in one of the shop areas instead of in one of the classrooms. The shop areas have back doors and the shop teachers have told them that they can try to escape into the woods as long as they know the shooter(s) are on a different floor.

They discussed which would be better, running out one at a time? If they did, they would have to draw straws to see who would go first, as someone could be waiting outside. The first one out would probably get shot. Or, would it be better to all run out at once and run as a pack to the woods? Or, is it better to all run out at once and scatter in different directions?

I was standing there calmly going through the motions of getting dinner ready,

listening,

calmly,

while inside my head I was, well…

I was keening…

I was weeping with Rachel for all our children.

Weeping…

…for all God’s children.

Bles-sed: “Made Holy; consecrated”

donation bucket

One of my favorite signs of spring is the bucket men. I’m afraid I don’t know what else to call them. As the snow disappears, there is a group of black men who appear at a busy intersection near my church. They wear bright yellow and orange vests, their colorful spring plumage vivid against the not-yet-green of the still bleak landscape.

They carry large, plastic buckets that say, “Feed Hungry Children.” I don’t know who they are but I trust there is a good purpose that has them standing for hours in the cold wind, the drizzling rain, and the spitting, sleety mess we are calling spring this year.

They approach each waiting car with a smile and a cheerful wave, moving easily along the line of closed windows on either side of them. I imagine person after person staring straight ahead in their comfy climate controlled cars waiting impatiently for the light to change so they can speed along their way.

I always open my window as soon as I see them so they know they will find welcome along the way. I scramble for loose change in my cup holder or whatever bills I have stuffed in my wallet and I wait for a man with a bucket to come to my window and give me a smile.

Today, as I dropped all the coins I had through the rectangle hole cut in the lid of the bucket, I said, “You are one of my sure signs of spring! Thank you for what you are doing for children in need.”

He grinned at me and said, “No one’s ever told me that. I like being a sign of spring! You take care now! God bless you!”

Perhaps still raw from a hectic Holy week, some gush of emotion, some broken remnant of Easter Alleluia, came rising out of me all of a sudden, and my eyes welled with tears. Around the lump in my throat I said, “I can’t remember the last time someone blessed me, thank you.”

Suddenly serious, he looked at me from the cold, drizzling rain as I sat in my comfy climate controlled car, and he said, “Ma’am, don’t you let anybody ever steal your joy.” He leaned closer and smiled at me. And I smiled at him through the rainbow of tears in my eyes.

And the world stopped for a moment.

And then, bam! There it was! God’s kingdom!

Not in the handful of scrounged coins, or even in the bucket for a worthy cause…God’s kingdom was, and is, in that silent place between strangers who have just recognized that they are related…the silent place where you suddenly feel connected to someone else heart to heart…that sacred place beyond words where you feel the spiritual strings that attach all creation into one living organism…that consecrated space between heartbeats….that holy place of unexpected Blessing…

He leaned back and nodded to me. He tapped the back of my hand with his finger and moved on. I watched him through my rear-view mirror, shuffling down the narrow path between cars, waving and smiling. I hoped to see another open window welcoming him along the way but there wasn’t one….I watched praying…open, open, open…

Then the light changed.

It was time to move on…..

As I watched him carrying out his ministry in the world, in the cold and wet…I thought, “He blessed me?” And I thought, “Hosanna, blessed is HE…blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord with a blessing on his lips, healing in his words, and love in his heart.”

I drove off realizing I was driving on the road to Emmaus that morning…

…and I’d just run into Jesus with a bucket in his hand.

Slum-ber-ing: To be in a state of inactivity, negligence, quiescence, or calm. To dispel or forget by slumbering.”

IMG_9437

It is Good Friday.
I am sitting in a silent sanctuary.
Seven candles are burning on the Communion table draped in the black of mourning.
The door, usually closed and locked, stands open to the dank and drizzly day outside.
I sit within.

The door is my window to the world outside.
I sit waiting to utter Christ’s last words.
To extinguish the candles one by one.
To ring the church bells marking the time until the temple curtain tears from top to bottom and the earth shakes and the wind of God blows fierce through the world.
I am sitting in a silent sanctuary.

Alone.

I am hidden inside looking out.
No one can see me if they look in.
I don’t know if seeing me would discourage or encourage visitors
to creep up the stone stairs
and take a peek inside the darkened room.

I feel as if I am sitting in the empty tomb.
It’s not so bad.
I feel safe from the ills of the world, the dangers, the pain and suffering, the clamoring crowds, the demands for nourishment, rescue, and healing.

I wonder…am I trapped?
or hiding?

Am I dead?

I have been reading, and praying, and dozing off from a restless, sleepless night,
coughing and coming down with something.
Half awake, I hang suspended in that place between dreaming and wakefulness
That liminal place where mystery dwells.
I find I am in the garden slumbering.
Jesus suddenly appears and asks, “Can’t you stay awake with me, one hour?”
And then he is gone.

Gone.

The spirit is willing but the flesh is so very weak.

Outside, I hear footsteps hurrying past.
People in conversation seemingly with themselves although I know they are somehow
plugged in to someone, somewhere…or are they?
Plugged in, but are they really connected?
To anything? To anyone?

I can hear the delighted chatter of the birds celebrating God’s new day.
Chirping, croaking, whistling…the abundance of song is dazzling.
I hear the whispered pattering of soft rain on the pavement.
I can smell the freshness of the newly washed air.

Inside, the candles aren’t flickering, even with the door open.
Not a breath of air… not a breeze …
…nothing stirring….

Only the cold seems to find its way in…
making me tremble….tremble….tremble.

It is only by the open door that I can feel the promise of spring and new life.

New life.

Outside.

Matthew tells us that when Jesus breathed his last, “The earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After Jesus’ resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.” [Matt 27:51 – 53]

And yet…here I sit.

Inside.

Have I not noticed that the stone was rolled away ages ago
and Jesus has long gone on ahead from here?

Gone.
Gone out.
Shaken off the sleep of death and gone out.
Out from the tomb.
Out into the world.

I hear the distant call of bells, sounding the alarm.
Is it time for me to wake up?
Is it time for me to go out?
To go out and join Jesus?

That is the question…Wake up?
Or go on dozing?
The snooze button is always so tempting.

Soon.

Soon the promised day will come!
Soon Jesus will arise!
Three days!
And all who are dead will rise up and follow!

We will!

We will!

Won’t we?