Friday, June 3, 2016

A Hundred Grubby Feet

Not pretty, these characters. They've been hanging out in my backyard. Yellow dog chewed their button eyes and noses. They've been soaked to the stuffing, matted in leaves and debris. They are the dispersed, the weary, the forgotten. I meant to gather them inside a few days ago, but yeah, they  are truly the forgotten.

A friend texted, "Will you do me a favor and pray on Matthew 10 with me?"

I have, and I am, and more. I've backed up to Matthew 9 with this question that I doubt I'll ever know the complete answer to. Theologians don't even know-not really. I wonder about faith and healing. It's what's being talked about in these Matthew chapters.

Seems faith isn't the only holy topic here. Seems healing is holy topic, too. There's a relationship between faith and healing, and I wonder about it. Why isn't this relationship understood as clearly as it's written about? What's the muddle?

I'm muddled by it; and so are the scholars and denominations, and even nations. I wonder, Does the holy relationship between faith and healing seem to be securely wed in worship meetings held beneath a big African sky, or on a littered beach in Southern India, or in a remote Haitian village and not so trustfully wed in the tidy wrap where worship is dressed up pretty?

I read about the diseased, the possessed, the leprous, dressed in rags and dirty.

I read about the paralyzed, and picture them looking a bit like the mangy characters in my backyard. They are the paralyzed. The beggars who can't move indoors when it rains hard and debris falls about them and gets soft and smelly in the damp.

I read about the young girl who died from sickness. He father traveled far to find Jesus, certain that He would raise her from the dead.

Then there's a woman whose flow hasn't stopped for twelve years. She's outcast and she smells and, thanks to physicians' fees, she's down to her last cent. Braving the crowds, she searched for Jesus, certain that He would heal her.

Well, I'm searching for Him, too. "Walk me through these chapters in Matthew, Lord." I'm certain He will mend the gaps in my understanding. "Darn the holes," I picture Him with darning needle in hand; and, "Darn them holes!" I mean it like it sounds. I do.


"Let's go for a walk." He doesn't expect seamless understanding, but is happy I desire it. And I'm happy that I don't have to brave crowds, travel to the next town, or be jostled in a multitude the likes of the blind and the mute I've lifted from the damp and placed on patio chair. Maybe I shouldn't be happy about the convenience, but the presence of Jesus is something to be happy about.

I've read the Pharisees saw that Jesus sat and supped with tax collectors and sinners, and then asked His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with them?"

I don't know what the disciples' answer would have been. Maybe they didn't know, either. Maybe that's why Jesus was the one who answered; because there is no formula answer and just maybe Jesus comes to the rescue. Yeah, maybe He does.

"Those who are well have no need of a physician,but those who are sick," He answered the Pharisees.

"So, Jesus, what does Your answer have to do with their question?" I'm not connecting the dots.

Why does He talk about those who are well and those who are sick in answer to a question about why He eats with tax collectors and sinners?

I ask Him out here in the backyard where we walk, me with holes in my understanding, "Are You saying that tax collectors and, well, just everyday, backyard sinners the likes of me, are actually those who are the sick?" I know I need the Physician.

Poisonous Mushrooms

I bend down to rescue the sopping lion, and there's this grub, just thick and pale white with eyes and a mouth-and a hundred grubby feet paddling the air-stuck in a compost of cankered leaves. It twists this way and that, but gets nowhere. Can't get out of the mess it's in.

A few steps over there to the right, the mushroom I noticed the day before is full open and the gills on the underside tell me it's poisonous.

"Nice walking with You, Lord." With two fingers, a tad squeamish, I pick up lion by the tail. It dangles above grub and drips, and poisonous mushroom looks every bit just everything sick as sin.

But, I'm a faith hunter on a walk with the Lord and I sense I'm on the right track back here in the wild backyard.

I seat the lion on patio chair and take pictures of the mushroom and this ugly-as-sin grub. It just is that ugly.

I watch the poor sick thing writhe in place and, "Ha! I get it, Lord!" I snap a picture and mentally tag it, Live Example of How Sin Gets Me Nowhere.

Lion is washed.

I've cropped the pictures I took on my walk with Jesus today, and I don't miss the irony that I've got a carton full of small Portabella mushrooms in the fridge. I'm thinking about what to make for dinner, grateful for these beautiful Portabellas and, not to ruin appetites, but I do thank God for clean meat because, thing is, grubs are protein in places like Africa, India, and Haiti.

With thanksgiving, I roll dough. Singing to praise music, I slice the Portabellas. Gratefully, I place meat into the skillet.

Before dinner's done, I've asked the blessing on every ingredient.

Sometimes I have to trek through the real ugly to find the real lovely. Real faith is on the move like that.

Faith doesn't beat the air as a hundred grubby feet, but it goes and finds the Physician.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

When There Are Three Days Till Graduation

Melted Butter
So, yeah, I'm at the coffee pot and there's this mess of butter just sprawled like a couch potato in the dish.

"Rough night?" I pour coffee grateful I don't feel the way that butter looks.

Sunshine melts through the kitchen window. Shadows lean as laid back as a Blues Band on a hot summer morning waiting for their gig. I lean against the counter. Just three more days till the high school graduation gig.  This mamma feels like a graduate herself.

In three days I'll watch my youngest of four walk.

At the fridge, I pull out the sandwich bread, lettuce, deli chicken sliced just so for sandwiches and I make a sack lunch sandwich for the thousandth time. This is the last sack lunch that will ride in a high school bound backpack.

I make the sandwich with the kind of care that borders on reverence. I remember the first sack lunch I made some twenty years ago; then the middle years when I'd line up twelve slices of bread for six sandwiches. My six-foot sons were eating two sandwiches each, and this kitchen was humming wide awake at 6:00 in the morning. Breakfast sizzled on the skillet, lunch sacks stood lined up on this counter like soldiers reporting for duty, and  roll was taken in the van.

Well, one sandwich. One Ziploc bag holds a handful of baby carrots. I slip a few slices of cucumber in there, too. One apple and a water bottle. I'm tempted to write a note on her napkin like I did all through elementary school, but she wouldn't appreciate the sentiment. So, no note.

Three days till graduation.

The band will play. The announcements and speeches will be made. The graduates will stand under the hot sun in dark blue gowns, and wait for their names to be called.

My girl is going to graduate, and this time I feel like I'm graduating, too. Only, I get to do it in the stands, dressed in something breezy. I don't need a cap and gown to graduate. Just one last sack lunch.

I wash an apple, dry it, and set it beside the water bottle in the sack. Then I fold the sack closed, and that's it.

I re-heat my coffee in the microwave where the butter folded last night; and I hold my own quiet ceremony here in my kitchen.

Sack Lunch

Sun and shadow drape in folds over the counter as if inviting me to put them on. I step into the light. It gowns me.

"Lord, it's more than enough to put Your light on." I run my hand over the counter and sweep bread crumbs into a little pile.

"Come to My throne," He announces my name.

I come, grateful to be draped in the gown of His righteousness; His light.

Right now, the stair banister is draped in the dark blue gown. The cap's been hung on the newel. And my gown? I'm wearing it. I'm wearing light. It covers me, because that's how God dresses those who wear the cap of salvation.

The robe goes with the cap.

Thing is, I've been wearing this robe and cap for so long that sometimes I forget I'm wearing them. I forget that the light of God isn't meant for me to hide behind, but to stand in. I know what it looks like to hide behind His light. I've done it-used His robe to skirt around questions such as, "How are you?" when I don't feel like answering. Lately, the Christianese answer is, "God is good!"

I've answered like that before, and mid-answer felt that holy pin-prick as if God has purposefully left a few pins in the fabric of light for just such times as when I use it to hide behind.

I've heard others answer the same way, too, when I've asked them how they're doing. "God is good!"

In cantankerous moments, I've felt like responding, "I know that, but I didn't ask who God is; I asked how you're doing."

So, there it is.

Cap and Gown
I purpose to choose, the next time I'm asked, one of two answers. I'm sure there are more answers to give, but I can only think of two.

There's the honest truth which may be more than they bargained for, or take too much time. And there's the, "Thank you for asking. We should get together and catch up." Personally, I'd like to try the second version. It opens the way for establishing fellowship beyond a once-in-a-while question that's asked between church services.

Honestly, sometimes the best standing-in-the-light kind of fellowship I've had has been in the aisles of the grocery store, or, as happened this morning, on the sidewalk outside.

We chatted about God's faithfulness.

We chatted about His sovereignty and amazing ways of colliding so many prayers from so many people into holy order and purpose,

We caught up with one another's lives. "My youngest is graduating in three days," said I.

"My youngest is getting married in three months," said she.

We laughed about the graduation ceremonies we've held for ourselves in our kitchens, packing up the last sack lunch.

Then we scheduled a morning next week to sip iced tea together out on the patio. Maybe there'll be sunlight and lazy-leaning shadows.

I catch the bread crumbs in my hand and toss them into the sink.

That's it. I walk.

And in three days my youngest graduates. She'll walk.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig