Mary Sings! A Way of Peace!

Nativity_mary_elizabethLuke 1: 39 – 56

Pregnant Mary comes to visit her older cousin Elizabeth, who is also pregnant. Elizabeth’s baby, will grow up to be John the Baptizer and we all know who Mary’s son is and will be. Elizabeth sees Mary and her child leaps in her womb and she is filled with the Holy Spirit!

She exclaims and cries out, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb….as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.”  And Mary responds, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Mary sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

This passage is often called Mary’s Song of Praise. Here she is a single, unwed mother who is impoverished – at least that is our best guess, because in those days you were pretty much either rich or poor – there was no such thing as a middle class.

For being unwed and pregnant, she could be stoned to death for the crime of adultery. She could be set aside by her fiance, Joseph. She could be shunned by her parents, her family, her friends, her entire village. She could end up an outcast, begging, or worse, to support herself and her baby to be.

This is what she knew she was possible when she said to the angel, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” This is what she knew was possible if she said, “yes” to God. And she said, “yes” anyway. And she learned what is possible when you put your trust and your life into God’s hands.

With so many reasons to show up at her cousin Elizabeth’s house, filled with fear and despair, singing a song of Lament, instead, Mary sings a song of praise, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” And Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit…and an unborn baby leaps with joy.

Mary sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

So, what does it mean to magnify the Lord?

Well, what does a magnifying glass do? A magnifying glass enlarges things and lets us see them up close, it lets us see things more clearly. A magnifying glass also reveals things we can’t or don’t normally see. It helps us to see the world around us in new and different ways.

I love using the magnification feature on my camera. The higher the magnification, the more it reveals the intricacy and details of the most seemingly ordinary things around us.  Magnification reveals the delicate veins of a flower petal, the soft furriness of a bumble bee, and the perfectly spherical drops of rain hanging from the tips of each pine needle.

A magnifying glass has another property as well. It can focus light into an intense concentrated beam that can set things on fire. Did you ever try to do that as a kid? Did you ever take some dry leaves and grass and hold a magnifying glass just right and concentrate that beam of light in one spot, and watch with growing excitement as it began to smoke…

…and can you remember the wild exhilaration of seeing that first tiny red glow…and then the excitement of that first tiny flame bursting into life!!!!

That is one way to think of our Advent adventure…taking a beam of a light that shone over a manger 2,000 years ago, and concentrating it, magnifying it with our souls, with growing excitement, until it bursts once again into the world and ignites our hearts, making us leap with joy!

Paul exhorts us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, do not quench the Spirit, hold fast to what is good.”  Really? Rejoice always? Give thanks in all circumstances? Even in the midst of sorrow, loss, fear, despair, frustration, anger, and even death?

How are we supposed to do that?

Mary teaches us how. In the face of possibly being ostracized, outcast, and even killed, she focuses her heart on God and sings a song of praise. She magnifies the Lord with her soul and with her life. She surrenders her life to God, and in surrendering, she finds peace. Peace that passes all human understanding.

And isn’t that what her son, Jesus, does as well?

It was this time of year four years ago that we were dealing with Bob’s Dad dying from brain cancer. He wanted to stay home and Bob and his seven siblings and all the spouses, did our best to set-up rotations to allow him to die in his own home, which he did that January.

We were not the least bit prepared for Bob’s Mom to be diagnosed with Esophogeal cancer not even three months after his Dad died. Taking care of both of them was challenging as many of you know from your own experiences taking care of sick and dying loved ones.

We set up a group email for the whole family, and we all started emailing each other every day and every single email ended with variations of “I am so thankful to have all of you.” “I realize how much I appreciate all of you.” “I thank God for all my family.” “I couldn’t get through this without all of you.” “I am praying for Mom and Dad and for all of you.”

We didn’t know it, but in the midst of our sorrow, and our grief, and our struggles, we were singing songs of praise to God. Our souls were magnifying the Lord, bringing God more clearly into focus, and shining God’s light like a laser beam on what was most important in our lives…and that was each other.

Our focus became those family connections that were our lifeline. Having each other and depending on God became the light that led us through those dark days.

What are you magnifying in your life?

The positive aspects or the negative? What we focus on is what becomes magnified in our lives. When our negative emotions become our lens for looking at life, our problems can be magnified until they become larger than life, and they become overwhelming.

Magnifying the Lord with our soul, gives us a positive lens for viewing our lives and the events in our lives – it brings God into focus and let’s God become our focus. Looking at the world with God as our magnifying glass, enlarges what is good in our lives. It clarifies what is most important. Then we can turn around and become God’s magnifying glass, concentrating God’s light through our hearts and out into the world.

Mary tells us to magnify the Lord, to focus on God and God’s love for us and for this world. Having faith in God’s action in our lives allows hope to grow. Having faith in God’s action in the world allows us to become God’s peace. Hope and peace create space for Joy in our lives, even in the midst of suffering.

Advent is our season for making room. Making room for hope. Making room for peace. Making room for joy, and making room in our hearts for Jesus to be born again into our lives.

Maybe that’s one reason why God sends the hope and salvation for the world to be born as a babe in a manger…what better way to fill us with the Holy Spirit and make our hearts within us leap for joy, than the gurgling coo, of a newborn!

Let us prepare the way for Jesus arrival, let us prepare!

While Mary sings….

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

MY SOUL MAGNIFIES THE LORD!

 

Zechariah Sings! The Way of Hope!

Zechariah singsLuke 1: 57 – 80

Like their ancestors Abraham and Sarah, Zechariah and Elizabeth are blessed with a son in their old age.  Zechariah is a priest, serving in the Temple when an angel of the Lord appears to him and says, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife, Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.”

Zechariah can’t believe it and he says to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” The angel replies, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God…because you did not believe my words…you will become mute…until these things occur.”

After months of being unable to utter a word, when John is born, Zechariah sings! In her book, “Through the Advent Door”, Jan Richardson says, “Zechariah sings! Full of wild hope, he sings! Knowing the state of the world, he sings.”

Zechariah’s son is born and he sings a song of praise to God…he sings a song of hope for the future – the future day when the light of God’s dawn shall break upon us…and in breaking upon us…the dawning light will finally, fully, break us open to God, Alpha and Omega…beginning and ending and beginning again.

Advent is our time between ending and beginning…Advent is where we stand in a place of already been and not yet come…God’s light has come AND, God’s light is coming.

His son John is born, and “Zechariah sings! Full of wild hope, he sings! Knowing the state of the world, he sings.”

One of the things we love about Advent is that it’s our time to sing our favorite seasonal songs.  Just as there are special foods we only make for the holidays, there is special music woven deep inside us that heralds Jesus coming again into the world.

There are songs that fill us with the promise of new beginnings, joy for the world, peace on earth, and hope for humanity. We sing and we remember God’s ancient and eternal promise of salvation and redemption.

God wraps his promise of salvation in the most beloved of gifts, A baby. All the hope for the world, wrapped in the Word made flesh. We gather at our Communion table, this community table and remember God’s gift of Jesus in a manger, given to us again and again every Christmas.  Jesus, the gift that God never tires of giving us.  We gather at Christ’s table, and our hearts join in singing, “For unto us a child is born, unto us, a child is given…”

What more blessed song is there than a baby’s borning cry that rewards a mother’s labor…and erases her cries of pain.  There is such promise in a new born, all things are possible. We look at a baby and we are inspired to dream dreams of a bright and happy future.

We wish better for them than what we had, no matter how successful we have been or, all the more, if we have struggled and suffered, we wish a better world for our children…for ALL children.  A baby reminds us that life continues. Babies bring joy in the present, and hope for the future.

Zechariah sings for his son a song of hope for a better world. “You will go before the Lord to prepare his way: to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of sins; the dawn from on high will break upon us…to give light to those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death.”

We are always living in the shadow of death. Our own mortality is always a present reality. The creations of humankind are fleeting, an inhalation and exhalation of breath, a mere blink in the eye of eternal eons.  And the increasing acts of human violence and the severity of recent natural events are casting fear and darkness all over the world.

The days grow shorter, the nights get longer, and we sit in Advent darkness feeling the cold, shadow of death stealing over us…feeling despair and hopelessness, discouragement, and dismay nipping at our hearts…and in this creeping darkness…

John’s task is to “go before the Lord to prepare his way,” to “guide our feet into the way of peace,” and to give light to those sitting in darkness.  It is the light of Hope that starts us on our Advent journey. Hope lets us take that hardest, first fearful step into the darkness of the unknown future always just up ahead.

I had never realized until my son told me in grade school, that there were originally two ships that set sail for the New World. They were called the Speedwell and the Mayflower. The Speedwell leaked so badly that after only a few days, both ships had to return to England.  Everyone had to get on the Mayflower. The Mayflower, now carrying twice as many passengers and far less supplies, set out for the New World alone.

During a storm, the main beam cracked and had to be repaired using a large iron screw.

They began to run out of food and fresh water.

Nine weeks into their voyage, crowded, cramped, sick, hungry, and afraid, so very afraid, some of the pilgrims wanted to give up and turn back.  They all gathered together on the deck of the ship and they prayed.

And in spite of their fear, without knowing where they were going…or when they would get there…or even IF they would get there, they put their faith in God.

They chose to stay on the path where Hope was leading them. They chose the path that gave them Hope for a better world for themselves and for their children.

Isn’t that what we all want? A better world, especially for our children?

Our first step in darkening days, is to step forward in Hope even when we can’t see God’s road ahead. To step forward and to watch, eyes and hearts straining to glimpse the dawn…straining to see first light, God’s light dawning – dawning anew on Christmas Day.  Straining, with all our heart and mind and soul, to stay on the path where Hope, not fear, where Hope will lead us.

It is Advent.

Our season when we gather ’round this table and we listen for the old, familiar songs. This table sings to us of God’s promises fulfilled, and God’s promises yet to come. This table sings to us of what was, what is, and what will be!

This table sings to us of God’s glory and God’s grace.  This table fills us with songs of peace on earth, good will toward all people; fills us with Glad Tidings of Comfort and Joy; and sends us out to go and sing from the mountaintops, our ancient Christmas songs of hope and peace and God’s love for all people who on earth do dwell.

His son is born….and Zechariah sings.

Full of wild hope, he sings. Knowing the state of the world, he sings.

Can we sing this Advent season?

With the sounds of bombs and gunshots echoing in our hearts?

Can we stand up and sing?

Can we sing Songs of praise…songs of thanksgiving…songs of joy?

Even knowing the state of the world we live in….

Can we sing songs of wild Hope? and Peace?

The child being born again in the manger says, we must sing.
WE MUST SING!

-We must sing of God’s promised new day…
-We must sing of God’s kingdom here on earth….
-We must sing glad tidings of great joy….

We, good Christians All, must sing,

If not us,

then who?

Sermon: Do Not Be Afraid, Stand Firm

Painting of Moses and Red Sea
“Moses and the Red Sea” – Mural at the Visionary Art Museum

Ex 14: 5 – 14, 19 – 25
John 14: 18 – 20, 25 – 27

When Moses leads the people of Israel out of captivity, they go out boldly, rejoicing in their liberation, confident in God and Moses. But then Pharaoh and his officials change their minds. I imagine it suddenly dawned on them that there were a lot of major building projects, and road construction, and gardening, and farming, and fruit picking, and laundry, and cooking, and cleaning, and childcare…

Basically, a lot of hard labor wasn’t going to get done without the convenience of an enslaved people under their control. So Pharaoh decides to re-nig on his deal, and he and his soldiers take off in hot pursuit.

When the people of Israel see the soldiers coming, their boldness dissolves like sugar in water, and they cry out to the Lord in fear. They turn on Moses and bitterly criticize him for leading them, not to freedom, but to death…their shouts of rejoicing turn to shouts of accusation and recrimination.

Moses says to them, “Be not afraid, stand firm. See the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today.”

“Be not afraid.”

We hear that a lot in the Bible. When angels appear, the first thing they say is, “Be not afraid.” Jesus is always telling the disciples and those who gather to see and hear him “fear not.”  In the face of seeming, certain death, Moses says to God’s people, “Be not afraid.”  It’s much easier said than done. Maybe that’s why we hear it so often in Scripture.

There are just so many things for us to be afraid of…afraid of losing your job…afraid of not finding a job. Afraid of not being able to pay your bills or put food on the table…afraid of losing your home…

…afraid of not getting into college… afraid of not getting into a GOOD college …afraid of not being able to pay for college…..

We are afraid of our physical failings…afraid of falling…breaking something…afraid of cancer…or the return of cancer…afraid of heart disease and diabetes…afraid of hospitals…

Our media feeds and inspires fear because it helps get good ratings. We are flooded with stories about threats from terrorists, ISIS, stagnant and divisive government, scary immigrants, and immigrant children who are coming to take over our schools and bring crime and disease into our midst…

And now this past week, we are once again afraid of random shootings, lone-wolf gunman, concealed carry laws, living with guns, and living without guns…

And then there is the weather to fear…rising temperatures, fearsome storms, increasing climate issues.  There are even the mundane close-to-home scares…local sightings of wild cats, coyotes, bears, infected ticks, rabid mosquitos…and on…and on….and on…and on. There is so much fear in our country, that the use of anti-anxiety meds continues to increase among adults, teenagers, and even children as young as three and four.

I am not in any way criticizing the use of medications when they are needed and can provide relief. I am lamenting, that as a society, we have allowed ourselves to become so scared and anxious, that we are making ourselves and our children sick with fear.

Fear in and of itself is not a bad thing. Fear is helpful when we are in dangerous and risky situations. A healthy dose of fear when mountain climbing; or walking on unfamiliar, dark city streets; or being on a subway platform late at night; or getting lost in an unfamiliar place, keeps us alert and prepared.

Healthy fear, provides adrenaline that sharpens our responses, clears our minds, and wakes up our senses. Fear is not healthy when it begins to consume our lives and influence our ability to set goals, or accomplish tasks, or to find joy in our lives. Fear is not healthy when we become trapped and paralyzed, unable to move or grow. When fear becomes toxic … it is a tidal wave that washes over us and threatens to carry us away and drown our spirit.

Moses says to God’s people, “Be not afraid. Stand firm. See the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today.”  Being fearful is a part of being human. And it is difficult to just stop being afraid.  So what are we to do when we become entangled in our fears?  What are we to do to go boldly into the world?

I would revise Moses command and say, “Be courageous, be firm in your faith in God, and face what you fear.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, a mystic and world advocate for peace, says, “Fear keeps us focused either on the past, or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.”

He teaches us that one way to overcome fear is to “Be,” to be here and now, and to live mindfully, in the moment…or to break down what we fear into something that is manageable.

I hate shots. Who doesn’t? The way I have learned to manage shots is to ask the nurse to tell me “Now” and “Done”. That lets me be worry free until I hear “Now”, and I can always hold on through “Done.”  That small space between “Now” and “Done,” is completely manageable for me. That is a small example of living in the moment.

Let’s practice!! I invite you to close your eyes for a moment, and simply “Be” present in this moment. Take a deep breath in and slowly breath out. Relax your neck and shoulders. Sink into your seat.  What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you sense around you? What do you feel?

Embrace this moment, this moment, where you have shelter, warmth, the company and support of people who care about you and that you care about….Delicious smells that promise coffee and a lovely meal later…the sounds of birds chirping…the whisper of soft rain.  Here, in this place, and in this moment…be not afraid.  Rest in God. That is the peace beyond understanding that Jesus prays for us.

As a spiritual practice, I invite you to look for, and to create, these “not afraid” moments in your life, moments of safety and comfort, moments of love and joy, moments of peace and hope, in the presence of God.  Notice them.  Savor them.  Hold on to them.  Collect them in your heart like precious jewels. These moments are the divine antidote that will inoculate you against the power of fear.

Moses says, “Do not be afraid, stand firm. God will fight for you.” God is with you…face your fear, even though what you are facing seems impassable or impossible, step forward with faith and God will open a way…God will get you through.

Facing our fears means taking that first step onto dry land where water was only a moment ago.  It means stepping out in faith, standing firm, acknowledging and carrying fear, but not letting fear carry you away.

One of my favorite books is a Sci-fi classic called Dune. The main character’s mantra that gets him through is this, “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Let your fear wash over you and through you and then imagine it draining out of you, emptying like the Red Sea, until you find yourself standing on dry land, standing firmly on God, the rock of ages, the foundation of creation.  Letting fear pass over and through us and letting it drain out of us, allows us to remain intact, strong, and firm within ourselves and within our faith.

Moses says, “Do not be afraid, stand firm. See the Deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today.”

When you are afraid, Step out boldly, with faith in God. See the Deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you….today.  This day…this blessed, gift from God, day.  Not tomorrow. Not some day in the distant future.

Today!

Do not be afraid. Stand firm, and see what the Lord will accomplish for you!

Did Jesus Dream?

glowing lights in darkDid Jesus dream while he lay in the tomb?

Did God send him dreams of clouds and glory
to make him sigh and smile?

Or, did Jesus dream of simpler things

Freshly baked bread
warm and fragrant

charcoal baked fish
crisp and tender

warm hands holding his
laughter
tender friends

Was there the comfort of murmuring voices
he could almost recognize
comforting to hear

a relief not to have to answer

Not just yet.

Was it cold in the tomb when Jesus woke up?

Dark?

Certainly.

Or, did his own radiance bathe the hand-hewn stone
with light

Did he know right away
where he was?
who he was?

Did he remember what had happened?

Or, did God let him lay awhile luxuriating
in the safety and comfort of the linens swaddling him
once again a new born babe.

Was there a moment of panic when he opened his eyes?

Where am I?
Who am I?
What happened?

O yeah…

O yeah…

I remember…

Them.

Will they,

remember

me?

Was there a shuddery moment of fully awake now
or,
did he shrug it all away along with the linens so carefully enshrouding his body?

Was he angry?

For a moment?

or, simply relieved to wake up

alone

at last

safe

in the dark tomb.

No reaching hands
no pain, no suffering
not even his own.

Did he draw a long breath in newly resurrected lungs
whispering a prayer of thanksgiving and praise
exhaling a sigh
of release.

Was he happy?

To still be here?

or was he longing to be there…
anywhere…
but here…

with us.

Did he look forward to the looks on his friend’s faces
when he would show up?

SURPRISE!

TOLD YOU!

YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT WHEN I TELL YOU WHAT HAPPENED TO ME
WHILE I LAY DREAMING!

YOU

WON’T

BELIEVE

IT

WILL YOU?

DO WE?

Alleluia!

Christ is Risen!

 

And So I Walk…

 img_4301

The platform at Woodland station was crowded as my daughter and I waited for our ride into Boston to join in the Women’s March for justice. When the door of the overly packed D train opened, the irate driver shouted out the door, “Trump is already elected! What is the point of all of this?!”

This is my reply…

There are still hungry people in this great country
Pinched faces pressed against the warm cheery windows
of the latest trendy restaurant
Not knowing when they will eat again.

And so I walk.

There are still discarded people in this great country
sleeping on cold concrete sidewalks, living in dirty alleys
calling collapsing refrigerator boxes “home.”

And so I walk.

There are still women and children in this great country
who are afraid in their own homes
who live with the threat of violence not from without…
but from within.

And so I walk.

There are people different from me in an infinity of ways in this great country:
different skin color, eye color, hair color, education, gender identity, religious practices and beliefs, heritage, language, upbringing, food preferences, skills, talents, and perspective…

…like snowflakes, each unique…

…all the same human family…

yet, too many are afraid to leave their homes or walk the streets of OUR country…

One

afraid

is too many.

And so I walk.

It’s time!
Time for quiet, decent comfortable sideliners like me
to stand up for what we believe in.

Time to stand up
and be counted.

Even though it takes me a minute or two
to get to my feet these days.
Feet which hurt
Back that aches
Knees that pop
Ankles that crack
Feeling every one of the extra 40 pounds I carry.

And yet, like Tolstoy’s guardian Ents,
those ancient tree shepherds,
Creaking…

I rise.

I am walking.

And the march has only just begun.

The threat of oppression already tests my spirit and my stamina.
The weight of the world slows my steps.
I am only one.
I grow weary.
I fear that on the long road ahead
I will falter or fall.

Then I look at my daughter
Walking at my side
I look at my sisters and my brothers
Spread as far as I can see.

And I remember…

WE are walking

Together

Stronger

TOGETHER!

Stronger than fear.
Stronger than apathy.
Stronger than hate and prejudice and cynicism
and selfishness and cruelty and greed
and injustice and oppression

and ignorance.

STRONGER!

Walking together for justice
Walking together in Jesus’ footsteps
We will not grow weary.
We will not grow faint.

One body

Stronger

Walking together.

And so,

WE rise!

And so….

WE walk!

img_4291

I Didn’t Know…

11-27-2016-mom-for-blog-2

I didn’t know the last time I talked to my Mom that it would be the last time.

I can remember everything we talked about because, after she died, I found a note tucked in her calendar – her “brain” she used to call it.  The note was a list of things to talk to me about, so she wouldn’t forget.

Now I won’t forget either.

She asked me about our recent trip to New Jersey.

It had been awful! Pouring rain and stuck in traffic for HOURS with a 4 month old baby girl that wanted to be nursed every one hundred and twenty minutes…

…on the dot.

Hard to do with the baby safely strapped into the back seat facing away from the parents trying so hard to soothe her crying. Desperate, I finally jumped into the back seat…

…did I mention we were STOPPED IN TRAFFIC?

I nursed her while the windows steamed up because of the pouring rain. Sweat and tears were running down my face and from under my arms and my huge swollen, aching breasts, because it was a sweltering, rainy day in July and we were…

…did I mention?

Yeah.
Right.
Stuck.

Mom told me she was glad that I was nursing my daughter and “hanging in there” as it had been a painful, awkward process at first…not at all like the beautiful, perfectly coiffed, slender, woman on the cover of Modern Maternity magazine. She was holding her nursing child gently in her arms, beaming with that glow of motherly ‘bonding’.

Yet another thing we sweaty, straggly, tired, real women can feel like we are failing at.

It’s “natural” – so why does it hurt? Why doesn’t the baby “get” it? Why does it take practice? Why does it involve stacks of pillows, lying awkwardly on your side, or sitting awkwardly in a chair with arms at just the right height. Why does it require being stared at in the Women’s room of the department store because it seems vaguely, (or completely), disgusting to those who have never done it or seen it.

Which seemed to be most of the American women that I encountered.

My Mom said that when she had her babies, the doctor said that formula was “better than mother’s milk. Scientifically formulated to provide all the nutrition that baby needs.” She said that in her day, she just went to sleep and when she woke up, she had a beautiful new baby.

In those first days when she was there helping me with her new granddaughter, she would look at me nursing my daughter and there was a wistful look on her face…a regret…maybe a feeling that “Science” had let her down. In spite of my complaints and discomfort, I had to agree with her.

The last time I talked with my Mom, I didn’t know it would be the last time. I thank God that when she had come to the end of her list of things to talk about, she said,

“I guess that’s all I have to say…but I don’t want to hang up just yet.”

I’m thankful, because on that day, instead of giving her the list of stuff I had to go do, and because her granddaughter was sleeping peacefully, and because I hadn’t talked to her for a few days, and because I loved her so much, I said,

“then let’s not hang up yet.”

I don’t remember what we talked about then.

It wasn’t on her list for me to find…

…two weeks later…

…after she died.

I just remember that I will be grateful all my life, that I sat down and let that conversation flow between us, that I felt that close connection with my Mom who was so far away.

She gave me a parting gift without me knowing it…

…and I hope I gave her one as well…

…even though…

…we didn’t know.

So Reasonable or The Incredible Shrinking Woman

woman-behind-blurry-window-2

As we sit in the freezing courtroom, I whisper to the woman huddled next to me,

“What shall we pray for?”

She sits quietly shredding the balled up tissue clenched in her small hands. She is waiting her turn to stand naked and alone before the judge. She is hoping for a restraining order to keep the devil at bay. There have already been many women ahead of us. Mornings in this court are set aside expressly for these kind of petitions.

….because there are so many.

I can tell the woman who is currently pleading her case is going to lose. Even from where I sit, I can see her shaking with emotion while her battering ex stands to her right, calm and collected. The judge’s body is angled towards the ex, talking mostly with him, the calm reasonable one.

They are almost chummy.

I can tell that this judge is a woman who is accustomed to being a voice of authority. Accustomed to wielding the power represented by the gavel lying before her. Accustomed to being shielded by the robes she wears, sheltered by the huge towering desk, like a fortress, that protects her from all danger.

The judge seems to have no patience for this powerless woman who is clearly mustering up every ounce of strength and courage she has to raise her voice on her own behalf. The voice of authority has no understanding of those who have spent most of their lives without a voice.

“It’s been 10 years,” says the judge, reinforcing the myth that time heals all wounds. “Mr. X, has been skyping with your son at school, which you agreed to in a hearing a year ago. Now that the school will no longer allow this activity, it seems perfectly reasonable that Mr. X be allowed to skype with your son when he is at home.”

“Not in my home.” says the shaking woman. “I won’t allow it. I can’t have it. Not in my home.”

Visibly bristling, the judge says, “I decide what will and what won’t be allowed. It seems perfectly reasonable that Mr. X be allowed to skype with his son when he is at home.”

“Perfectly reasonable?” REALLY??

Maybe if their lives together had been filled with playing catch in the backyard, help with homework, encouraging words, hugs, smiles, and everything we are brought up to believe families should be.

Perfectly reasonable?

To allow Mr. X access? This man who can still make her nauseous with fear and helpless anger, that can still make her tremble so hard we can all hear her teeth chattering when she tries to speak up and explain what cannot be explained?

Perfectly reasonable?

To let him continue to molest and violate her with petty prosecutions and court dates month after month, year after year, just to show her who is still in control of her life?

Perfectly reasonable that she should have to hear his voice once again mumbling in the other room…to know that his eyes are avidly peering over her son’s shoulder into the room she painted with bright colorful murals to help chase the monsters away…

…The room filled with smiling, happy pictures of their precious and so precarious life together…

PERFECTLY REASONABLE?

TO LET HIM INTO HER HOME?

INTO HER SANCTUARY?

THE ONE PLACE LEFT ON EARTH WHERE SHE COULD FEEL SAFE?

Can’t the judge see that she is letting that malignant presence inside…back inside this shattered woman holding herself together with every ounce of strength left in her world weary soul…letting him back inside her head? her home? inside her? and her son??

Dear God, don’t allow him to be present IN HER HOME IN ANY WAY!!!!!

Mr. X clinches the deal.

“Your honor, I am a reasonable man, even just once a week is enough. I just want to stay in touch with my boy.”

Perfectly reasonable.

“I concur.” responds the judge. “Mr. X has permission to skype with his son on a weekly basis when he is at home.” The judge and Mr. X go about setting up a reasonable schedule. The two of them slowly erase the woman shaking with fear and disbelief. She shrinks before my eyes until I almost can’t see her, she has gotten so invisible.

I am startled when they call the name of the woman next to me.

I whisper to her,

“What shall we pray for?”

She stands up.

Straight and tall.

Maybe for the first time in her life.

For the first time in the years I have known her, she looks me straight in the eye…

…and smiles.

A Madonna smile.

Calm.

Somehow,

Holy.

“What shall we pray for?” she replys.

“Freedom.

Let’s pray,

for Freedom.”