Tweets

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God tweeted “Not white” and followed that with “Not male.”  Followers gasped and tweeted “Not God.” God laughed and tweeted “Not moon.” And then “Not American,” using gleeful hashtags and emojis. This triggered such a massive unfollowing, Twitter managers pitied God, and granted a stay of execution.

“People.” God shook her massive head as we sat with our feet dangling in the water. “Do you think there’ll come a day when they stop squeezing me into their image?”

“Doubt it,” I said. “I do it all the time, and I know better. You’re impossibly big, and we’ve discovered how vast, how tiny….Um, let’s just say the Known Universe isn’t even known very well. And yes, we did appear to be evolving nicely there for a while, but the wheels have come off. Looks like the retrenchment will be hell to pay.”

God sighed. “Tell me something I don’t know.”

“Okay,” I said. “Do you know how foolish I feel continuing to hope compassion will overcome hatred?”

“Yup,” God said.

“Or that gratitude will outstrip greed?

“Yup,” God said.

“Well, how about this: I like to imagine you’re going to swoop in and get even with all the bad guys—utterly destroying them. Bam. Humans are really into revenge. Including me. We all hope you are too.”

“I knew that,” God said. “And I’m not.”

I gave up. I wasn’t really trying. We were just making small talk. By the river. On an innocent day. Time enveloped us and came to an end. I slept, body on stone, as the sky thickened, turning the colors of a Navajo blanket. God lifted me in fatherly arms, and I snuggled into that hollow spot where shoulder meets neck. The essential scent of God filled my lungs. I roused myself enough to invite the entire world—no, the entire cosmos–to come sleep there with me. Protected. Somewhere beyond fear or reason.

And God made room. Just in case.

Purple Chair

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Some weeks ago, I had three ugly chairs to deal with. Donate? Trash? Hide them away in the abandoned chicken house? I also happened to have three small cans of paint. Lime green, purple, and burgundy. And a paint brush, and a what-the-hell attitude. No one I know will live long enough to entirely declutter. Yanking something back from the brink of the landfill is one of my favorite things. This is why God and I relate so well.

Now, in this lonely morning space, the purple one holds my gaze, shiny and redeemed, imperfect but gracious. The worn sofa accommodates my shifting weight, and the three of us form a temporary universe.

To my left, the accusatory past, the glory days, my living children, my dead friends. The seductive urge to rewrite. Compelling grief mingled with steady resurrections made possible because I remember and remember. But I can’t stay long. The urgency of Now will overpower, as it should.

To my right, the slim future bulges with what-ifs and how-abouts. Ungainly opportunities, bloated with longing and contradictions. Oh, I know the future is not an all-you-can-eat affair, but I wish it were. This is brave of me to admit. I’m a greedy hog, wanting unlimited, tasty dishes served to me, day and night, forever.

The purple chair shimmers in light filtered by fire. Thick smoke has hidden the mountain. My lungs are burning and I’ve begun to cry for help, like a child lost. But I’m not lost. I’m centered in this precarious place between myself and a world growing dryer and more flammable in the glaring clarity of heat.

Soon, I’ll lift myself from the stillness and drive, a long solo journey. I’ll fly across expanses that reverberate with a humble God. A dying God. A green God, pregnant with an eternity no one can grasp. But I know a little about it, thanks to the purple chair, and this moment, the fire, and a slew of generous gifts from departed friends and long-forgotten enemies.

It is enough. Oh, wait. One more confession: I always want more than enough. But I’m slowly learning that more than enough can be a very toxic blessing.

Just so. Enough

Sun Stroke

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It is early afternoon. God has arrived wrapped in a comfortable silence, a silence more welcome than river or sky. Profound. Eloquent. Invisible. Soothing. I drink in big gulps, aware of how perilously close I was to sun-stroke of the soul. Here, in the shade, the sweet darkness, the shelter of the womb, I am restored. I curl fetal. Passive. Receptive.

“Hello, weakness,” I say. “Hello, futility. Hello, starkly cold breath of God.”

Silence holds me like a baby. I’m a simple puzzle, easily taken apart. The silence doesn’t mind. I’m easily put back together as well. It’s been unbearably hot lately, an unforgiving sun claiming the right of way, scorching anything exposed. Defying the clouds, reducing the breeze to an occasional sigh. The meaningless heat strips my excuses to the bone. Subtleties melt away, dreams forgotten. The God of heat is relentless, deadly. The only way to survive is to find the darkness and repent. Crawl down, dig deep, sink into a place below the surface, where shadow befriends the weary.

God politely waves from a respectful distance, leaving the holy silence unmarred. I wave back. God pulls the silence closer and shakes it a little, like someone fluffing a pillow. God likes it here in this moment. In this nothingness. I’m glad we’re both at ease. I put as much gratitude into my gaze as I possibly can. Then God and I nod off. A little siesta, a full relinquishment of our ambitions and fears. We give up together, letting the afternoon be whatever it might be. We rest.

There’s a dark night just over the horizon, and after that, more sun. I’m vaguely aware of this, but I stake no claim on what might come. God’s breathing has slowed, deepened. Like my own, it rattles a little on the exhale.

7-7-17

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My apologies to anyone accustomed to a god-blog appearing more often. Time has slipped by, and so has God. I can’t seem to be at the right place at the right time. I know the rascal’s been coming by—calling cards are scattered outside the doors, tucked in crevices, pinned to trees. They float in the sunlight like ashes after a fire. At night, I hear footsteps. But I’m never sure. Never quick enough. So I’ve been going it alone, living on inspiration borrowed from the sunflower growing between the boulders in the front yard.

Today is 7-7-17. Maybe God is in the 7s. Or the nearly full moon. Or the succulent stalks of asparagus shooting aggressively from the bed of weeds by the new garage. Or the giant sculptures just over the hill at Tippet Rise, declaring the difficulties of creation. We know the devil’s in the details, so maybe God is in the broad strokes or the deep inscrutable waters where undiscovered creatures live with no light or air, no awareness of the shores, stratospheres, and barbeques above them. There is only the below.

Perhaps it’s better to know less—to have a tight little vision that extends barely past my skin. To think only of how to make my own atmosphere rich with reassurances and perfectly timed caresses. To scream obscenities at anything that intrudes, trying to destroy all unsuspecting protrusions of reality. Hard to say. Perhaps it’s better to believe only what fits in the quart jar where I keep my cold-brew coffee and my darkest fears–to grab whatever sleep is available, and dump dreams—even fragment of dreams–down the drain in the morning.

Perhaps.

But unlikely.

If there is a below, there’s an above. If there’s a limit, there’s a gate. Or a hole, or a tool to make one. If there’s a sunflower growing between the boulders, there’s a God scattering weeds, her fool head thrown back in laughter, fangs sharp and white. She’s to blame for driftwood and death, my finite mind, and the biochemical bleakness at 3 AM. But I still like her. I’ve made some minty water in case she stops by when I’m home. It’s been unusually hot. I imagine her drinking with relish, smacking her lips, making light banter while lifting my guilt as if it weighed nothing at all.

But for now, I’ll carry the heavy armor. I like the illusion I’m tough as nails.

Allah’s Will

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Some people wear tight underwear on purpose. It doesn’t slide around as much, and certain appendages are less likely to droop, sway, wobble, or escape. But through the eons, God, the amazing artist has tinkered with the cosmos, including the design of the human body, so maybe it’s just the way it’s supposed to be for now. Therefore, are bodily interferences and management strategies a violation of God’s will? Like tight underwear? Or sexy underwear, or decidedly unsexy underwear? Or underwear itself? If those ancient Jewish authors got it right, Yahweh wasn’t all that impressed with fig leaves.

My mind wanders to tattoos and piercing. Spandex and Lasik. Obesity and anorexia. Facelifts and Viagra. To the death penalty and compassionate assistance when someone is ready to die. Birth control and abortion. Driving while tired, jogging in smog. Bikinis and burkas. Stents and suppositories. Aren’t we humans something else? We replace hips, drug ourselves silly, elevate or depress our moods, and bleach our teeth to neon white. We can prolong “life” with machines, almost indefinitely. Who’s to say how much fussing, prolonging, shortening, fattening, thinning, covering or uncovering is God’s will?

Our lives and bodies are gifts. I close my eyes, cross my legs, focus on breathing, and ask the Giver about gift management. The Giver wraps her arms around her enormous belly and winks. She’s always available, but always giving birth. I tiptoe around and watch.

I open my eyes and see the branches of the plum tree swaying under the weight of a scolding blackbird. Gifts. I see the onions and the peas growing. I see the river roaring by. Gifts. I know I need to pull weeds and water the garden. Gifts that need my attention. Gifts that I treasure or neglect.

It occurs to me that once I’ve given my beloved a gift, it’s his–to use or not use. To paint, hang, feed, cover or uncover, play with, give away, store, or use up. I might be sad if he doesn’t say thanks, or doesn’t like the gift, but I do not take it back or control it. That would be incredibly rude.

And as I deepen into this inquiry, it occurs to me that I, myself, have given birth. Twice. And after it was given, I worked hard to give these new lives what they needed to survive, and what they needed to gradually assume the autonomy that distinguishes human life.

I know the river, gift that it is, could kill me without a second glance if I just waded in right now. I won’t be wading in anytime soon. My life is mine. Other people’s lives are theirs. My body is mine. Other people’s bodies are theirs. Gifts. I decorate, doodle, abuse, and elevate. I stretch, exercise, and pamper. I overeat, undereat, and forget to hydrate. I imbibe in limited quantities of dark beer.

Someday, I will die. I may have a say in how and when. I may not. We live, temporarily, in a risky universe, and then we move on. That’s how it is. That’s how it should be. The Giver takes a minute, between contractions, to squeeze my hand. The beauty of being breaks my heart. She understands, and makes room for me in her bed. The thunder is deafening, but I no longer need to hear.

Click Bait

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God came roaring up in his 4-wheel drive pick-up, skidded to a halt, slammed the door, and stomped up my newly-poured sidewalk. His hair was on fire. He scorched the lower branches of the chokecherry bushes before he flung open the front door. “Who d’ya think you are, you worthless pieceashit?” he shouted. “Your writing sucks. You can’t speak for me. I’m the Supreme Being. King. Ruler. God Almighty. I speak for My Self. You need to shut your damn trap.”

Something was deeply untrue. My throat tightened, but my disbelief saved me.

“Wrong turn,” I said.

“Like hell,” he yelled, coming for my throat.

I stood my ground, looked him in the eye, and said “Fake news.”

He screamed and writhed like the wicked witch, diluted to shadow.

“How’d you know? How’d you know?” He squealed a dramatic piggy squeal as he sank to the bottom of the inky nastiness at my feet.

I couldn’t explain how I knew any more than I could explain my aching stomach and pounding head. It hurt. Everything hurt. Lies and dark money. Hatred. Malignant neglect. Greed. Ignorance. Threats. Vicious attacks. Click bait. Click bait. Death bait. Hate bait. I named it. I stood with the wounded. I refused to strike back. That hurt too.

“Good work,” the real God whispered. I nodded in complete agreement. It was good work. Hard work. I could see that God had taken the brunt of the hit. She was still a little bent over.

“Why, oh why do you bother with us?” I asked, only half-sincere. “And where do you get the patience?”

“I can’t answer that, honey,” God said. “But you’ll know someday.” She was tired, but there was still a warm light in her eyes.

“Well, forgive me,” I said. “But I seriously doubt it.”

“Doubt’s good,” she said. “Compassion’s better.” Then she drifted to the porch, to my treasured collection of petrified wood. She chose one of my favorite pieces, ate it, and settled down among the beautiful fossils to rest.

“Nooooo,” I wailed. “Not that one. Not there.” But it was too late. She was gone.

Oh, I how I hate being human sometimes, swirling around in our ugly soup, hope against hope, kin against kin. We keep extracting, gorging, and making weapons. How are we going to fix this mess? Compassion hardly gets any clicks at all.

Waiting

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I have a terrible, miserable cold. It struck a day before some kind of chemical rained down on children and other innocent beings in Syria. At first, I thought God wasn’t coming by because of my germs. Who can blame him? This is one bad virus. But then suddenly I saw him on the news, dark hair matted, eyes glazed, legs peppered with red eruptions of flesh, curled around the pain of human depravity. A film crew had caught his image, there among the least of them, burned and screaming. I touched the TV screen, sending God what I could send, which felt like nothing. “God,” I said to the image. “God, I see you. I see you.” But then I turned away. I went to bed disoriented, waiting, my soul as congested as my lungs. I couldn’t let myself cry. I was too sick.

The next day, I glimpsed God in Egypt, standing among corpses and mutilated bodies, directing emergency workers to the injured. I didn’t turn away this time. Mesmerized, I watched the dead moving toward burial, the keening of those bereaved washing over me as I stood inert, depleted. What a fucked up, dreadful world. And what am I to make of God, always down in the thick of it? Hungry, imprisoned, bereft, tortured, excluded, persecuted, hated, ugly, alone.

I used to think I knew how to join, how to be of use. I used to have firm white bones and clear ideas. I used to be young and impudent. Now I listen more. My steps are slower. Now I raise my eyes to the hills, watch the sand hill cranes float by, and wait. I’m a bruised reed, a smolder candle. Waiting. Grateful for the grasses and willows whispering sweet nothings in the wind.

 

The Nondominant Hand of God

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Peeling enough old carrots to make carrot soup involves a lot of peeling. As I made my way through the pile, my arm got tired and my fingers ached, so I switched and tried peeling with my left hand. Since I’m right-handed, this required an increased level of mindfulness, which I exerted for the few seconds it takes for my mind to wander off and my hands to surreptitiously switch back to their comfort zone. I caught them doing this three times.

Why do most humans even have a dominant side? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to be equally coordinated on both sides? Dualism bothers me at any level—dominant/nondominant, strong/weak, pretty/ugly…but the shallow assertions of good/bad bother me the most. Context and consciousness exert enormous influence on what is considered good or bad. Maybe this is why my buddy, God, said “judge not, lest ye be judged.” Well. God may or may not have said that exactly, but it’s a good thing to consider. And God went on to imply that we’d be judged by the same standards we use on others. I have a bit of work to do in this area. I cut myself a lot of slack that I don’t necessarily cut others.

For the fourth time, I switch to my nondominant hand. It clumsily scrapes the peel off the carrot, and I try a new tack. “Thanks, Left Hand. Not so easy for you, huh? Hang in there. You might not peel as fast, but you’re important. Look at the relief you’re providing Righty.” I feel a wave of affection for this left hand of mine. My hands don’t try to switch back. Lefty peels valiantly. I admire the tenacity, the humility. My left hand doesn’t aspire to much. It tags along.

Is it possible that God has a nondominant hand? And if so, could God’s nondominant hand be her favorite? The one she used to mold the rolling hills? The one that dispenses gentleness? The one that reminds her of the relativity and circularity she’s set in motion–the stuff we refer to as creation?

These orange carrots. These aged and battered hands. This moment. This body. Breathe in. Breathe out. The oneness and completeness we keep taking apart to examine and label–the fragments and shards that have no home. If time were real, I’d ask God how much longer we’d be living like this. Then I would forgive my enemies. My heart would expand and crack open, and this would be the beginning and the end.

 

Dust Mite

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Sometimes, my co-author pushes things a little further than seems appropriate and leaves me dangling. For instance, this morning I’ve had to gulp back my aversion and hide my incredulity while  I try to model polite acceptance. “Hello, God,” I said. “I see you’ve become a dust mite.”

No discernible answer. I try a little ingratiation. “Wow. You’re so tiny and translucent.” But I’m thinking UGLY! Of course, I realize beauty’s in the biased eye of the beholder. I continue on. “And bugs like you are impossible to eradicate.”

Without a word, God infiltrates my psyche and I drop a little deeper. Humans can dip very low. God can dip lower.

“God, you freak me out. You’ve taken up residence in the detritus of humankind, yet you remain essential and good. You’re living where we’ve been, transforming what’s fallen from our bodies into sustenance. You restore meaning to things that have been cast off and forgotten. You complete the circle. You’re like a mother clasping the old sweaty shirt of her child to her heart, weeping for all that has been, all that could have been. Taking courage from the scent remaining in the shredded cloth. You fearlessly find the way forward. Onward.” Still no answer, but I think God is in agreement.

“I’m like that today too, God,” I say, longing for some kind of affiliation.

I’m sitting beside my expanding rock collection–stones that were once fallen trees, transformed by minerals in the ancient putrid waters that sucked them down. I can’t fathom the pressure necessary to create these stones. And how is it they’ve come to be here, on my bench, in my house, absorbing the warmth of the morning sun?

Judging from the way things break down and are reconfigured, my place in this cacophony of life and death is a whimsical bit of happenstance. This upsets me a little bit.

“Sometimes, I wish you took me a little more seriously, Dust mite God,” I said. Of course, no answer.  “Okay, sometimes I wish you didn’t pay any attention to me at all. You’re a frightening, infinitesimal speck of persistence, patiently digesting, creating and re-creating this ragged world and all that is within it.” No comment. No reaction. I stumble on.

“Diminutive God, you’re nearly invisible to the naked eye.  I don’t know what to make of you. Why have you chosen to inhabit such a tiny space.?”

Finally, I realize there will be no reasonable answers. In fact, there will be no answers at all today. Only compassion. Only resurrection. Only the icy hope of rising water, the magical appearance of red-winged blackbirds, the ambivalent green of an ordinary day.

In this version of myself, I am the friend of dust mites, the builder who will not reject these temporary stones. I am a transitory being of ashes and dust, improvising the best I can with the materials at hand. I won’t get it entirely right. No one ever does. And it doesn’t matter in the least.

 

In Praise of Sky

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I sing the praises of blue, blue sky, diving magpies, hawks, and ravens. Perfectly still air, and a calm soul. I shout thanks for the excellent sleep and the waking, consciousness and sustenance, and the rusty metal relics I’ve made into toys and works of art. Pumpkin pie and beer for breakfast. Lotion for my itchy legs. A plan that will help me sequence as I meander. A charger for my phone. I am among the blessed. My good fortune extends so far beyond what I deserve that the comparison is spurious. What I deserve and what I have are unrelated. To prove otherwise would involve such massive statistical analyses, only God could give it a go.

My mind wanders. Imagine God with 7 billion independent undeserving variables lining up with their blessings and curses, their riches and hunger, their longings and fears. What connects to what? What would the dependent variables be? Clean air? Laughter? Breast milk? Weapons? Money? Love? A full belly? A fantastic sexual partner? Healthcare?

Correlation is NOT causation. This is the single spiritual truth I learned in Advanced Statistics. But, my or my, aren’t we tempted to draw the easy conclusions? Isn’t it hard to let go of those judgements about who deserves what? Some graceless days, I deserve nothing. Some malevolent days, I’d willingly get rid of half the world’s population, convinced I’d be doing the Universe a favor.

Tune in here, God. Don’t you realize how maddening it is to be us? Well-fed, fulfilled human beings who’ve invented politics, the nightly news and the Internet? I didn’t ask to be born who I am, where I am. Why am I not a dead Syrian child? Why am I not a billionaire? God, you’re inconsistent and nearly inscrutable. What am I? What am I supposed to do?

“Enough,” God said. “You’re enough. You’re a stitch in the quilt I’ve been working on, a glimmer of light through water, you add to the harmonics, and help with the boredom I face occasionally. I set you free before you knew what that meant, and I’ve been trying to teach you ever since. Most humans are frightfully slow learners, but luckily, I invented education, and if you’re willing, I’ll keep teaching you.”

“Ok,” I said meekly.

“Good to hear,” God said. “You can back off the statistics. I was enjoying your revelry before you drifted. Do what’s in your heart to do. Let your joy make you brave, compassion make you strong. That’s how I do it, and remember, we’re a lot alike.”

“Yeah. I hate when you point that out,” I said, loosening up a little.

God laughed and blew me flirtatious kisses, like fireworks on the horizon. I blew some back and began again to praise the blue, blue sky. But frankly, it didn’t seem like enough. I crossed my arms, ill at ease with my comparative wealth. God laughed again. “Keep trying,” God whispered. “Keep trying.”