Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Good Marriage

My passion for prison ministry is officially married with my writing. A column I call, Beyond the Wire, is now a feature in a local magazine, The Voice of Southwest Louisiana. A brainchild of my early morning muse, writing journal articles is a stretch from my comfortable fiction where I’m allowed to wax poetic and lie.


I chose The Voice because it focuses on positive aspects of the region and people from the southwest area of the state. That seemed a good marriage for my column, concerning The Open Door Prison and Re-Entry Ministry. This monthly column features volunteers and a few of the clients, whom The Open Door helped find new beginnings. 

Visit The Voice of SWLA, www.thevoiceofsouthwestla.com 

and see my January article, “Crime Fighters” under Favorite Columns. Let me know your opinion. 




Monday, January 12, 2015

Not a Cliché

At the local gym, recently, I ran into a man who lost his wife over the Christmas Holiday. We had become acquaintances over the years through our morning exercise ritual. Obviously devoted to each other, the older couple shared a good-natured sense of humor that always delighted me.

Shirley’s illness arose quickly, but she lingered near death for several weeks. Never good at funerals, I skipped it. Seeing her husband, George, sitting with a friend after exercise, I said a prayer that God would be with my mouth and guard the door to my lips, as I exited the building.

I hate the obvious platitude, “I’m sorry,” that awkward acknowledgement necessary to move on. I planned to express something simple, but less trite. Rubbing Georges shoulder, I proceeded to fumble and say exactly the “I’m sorry” I didn’t want.

Quite relaxed and gracious, George relieved my bumbling, mentioning how Shirley always said she was “ready,” but how none of us really are. “We’re hardwired to live.” Hand still on his shoulder, I nodded remembering her words and 

took a swig from my water bottle. Then he surprised me by adding, “If they sold tickets to heaven, I doubt anybody would stand in line.”

I’m not sure if it was nerves, or the quirky way he came out with it, but I started to laugh, and promptly squirted a mouthful of water over my grieving friend. A good sport, he acknowledged my ridiculousness with an amusing comment. Certainly not a cliché moment, the incident broke the tension, I so feared.

Strange how God answers prayer. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Battle Begins

Monday—the very first one of 2015. I’m not into resolutions. The sound of breaking glass comes to mind, an entire hutch of china overturned. A Hollywood vision includes me running through a burning woods with my arms overhead to protect from hot falling promises.

Now GOALS, that’s another subject. Those are expectations we are reaching for, like the next rung of the monkey bars. This morning as I returned to last year’s goal to exercise regularly, I ran into a writer friend on the walking track. We spent thirty minutes catching up, encouraging each other in our careers.

Once home, over coffee, I set a schedule, blocked time to write more consistently, submit weekly, and blog regularly. It looks great. Very neat and orderly on lined paper.

But my Christmas present lies open next to the DVD. I hear the evil footman calling me. “Come gorge on season three in the boxed set of Downton Abbey." Ooh, and look at that stack of novels I received. They’re piled a foot deep on the table next to my rocker.

Those damn monkey bars. Even as a child, I could never get beyond the third rung. Where’s Gollum when you need him with that disappearing ring act.

The battle begins. Bring on the fire.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 Promises to be a Great Year

It’s 2015, and I have set some lofty writing and publishing goals. After much research and prep, I’m getting a website up this month. My plan includes improving my electronic skills. I have a devotional pending for the Upper Room www.upperroom.org and a series of articles about The Open Door Prison and Re-Entry Ministry to be published in The Voice of SWLA www.thevoiceofsouthwestla.com. Yes, 2015 promises to be a great year.., and yet, I feel guilty. So many blessings, I don’t feel worthy.

Psalm 23, verse five comes to my mind. “You set a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” 

I envision a large round table covered with a white tablecloth. A delicate silver cup with a handle sits in the middle, engraved with my initials. I’m trying to see the faces of the people sitting across from me, but I don’t see any enemies. Over the years, I’ve tried to forgive those who have hurt me. Sometimes I have had to take the pain and lay it down SEVERAL times. The chairs appear empty.

Wait! There’s a shadow, a puff of smoke rising. The chairs aren’t unoccupied. They’re filled with apparitions and mirrors. My smarmy “selves” are seated all around. Those annoying characteristics, like perfection, sarcasm, self-centeredness, criticism, and negativism have all come to the Table. He offers me the Host. I swallow the bread and wash it down with the juice. "God forgive me my trespasses." But I don’t.
   
“You anoint my head with oil.”

The shepherd of Bible times oiled the sheep’s head to keep gnats with unseen disease away from their eyes.
Have you ever seen a child bend down to pick up a toy and miss the edge of the table by a fraction of an inch? What undetected calamity am I protected from every day—covered by the healing oil of grace. The human cells divide, sluff, repair, produce antibodies, unseen mysteries of which science only dreams. "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned."

“My cup runs over.”


He pours into my little silver cup blessings beyond full. Overflowing and beyond my imagination.

Yes, 2015 promises to be a great year. Now you guys at the table scram, I’ve got work to do. 


Monday, December 22, 2014

Who Can Resist

We’re expecting! The whole family—we’re so excited—expecting, again.

Gas or no, who can resist an infant’s smile? And coo…, they’re so vulnerable and sweet. Their skin smells so…, like a baby.

I know, I know, the nightly news is bad. The newspapers run red with murder and war. Sometimes you hate the idea of bringing a kid into a world that’s crazy.

But we’re expecting! Right now—soon.

What? Angels sing?

“Glory to the newborn King. Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”


Yes. Who can resist?


Monday, December 15, 2014

Father Christmas Smiles Gray

Another Poem. Season's Greetings!

This is the view from my window. What's yours—physically or emotionally?

Father Christmas Smiles Gray

The river, she is busy today.
Roiled and irritated
runs ahead of the storm,
a grab for the Gulf and warmer climes.

Dry leaves chatter, "Foul,"
to the southern blow.
"Make up your mind, it's December,
we've given all."

The neighbor's awkward palms
planted out of place, 
wave their fronds
like silly schoolgirls—cry, "Bully."

Swaying on the banks,
naked cypress wag
lacy Spanish moss north or south
harlots to any passing gusts.

Red vinca hold fast their bed;
snap like a matador's cape,
"Bring it ON,"
they taunt the North wind.

Now tears of rain splash dance
cold across the surface.
Father Christmas Smiles Gray
in Southwest Louisiana.



Monday, December 8, 2014

Winter Thanks

In winter I lean toward melancholy. I tend to leech happiness from nature's color.  
Today I wrote a poem and wanted to share. 

wrap

Winter Thanks

The gold and copper jewels
lay scattered brown across the lawn.    
A week ago their glitter
shimmered in the breezes.

Bare branches beseech the sky,
or is it praise?
Upstretched thanks for the rest.
Sap’s down with a winter nap.