Same job, different uniform.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Where I attempt poetry after a long absence

The tattered hammock stubbornly resists the gentle back and forth movement
of a small, tethered boat.

My left leg hangs over the side,
pushing back from the weeds to produce the motion I know should be mine.

Not quite relaxed, my gaze turns to the sky
When my children clamber up beside me and we tip dangerously to one side.

Not content to let me own this eight feet of openness and peace they have cornered me

Irritation bubbles up.
Resigned I ask, Shall we hunt for shapes in the clouds?

This suggestion is novel, and I am flummoxed.
Have we never lay on our backs and looked at the sky?
Enchanted, they begin calling out shapes of dragons and fish and other things lost to that Moment.

My foolish leg, so determined to manufacture rest, can no longer reach the ground.
My daughter is wedged beside me shouting out Sky-Shapes.
His imagination at full tilt my son identifies the wonderful
And I see it.

The Moment has come in the end
On her own terms

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It's Worse Because You Know

Though I don't remember much about music or movies in the 80's, I remember the great political debates.  Ronald Reagan, Walter Mondale, Ollie North, Robert Bork all loom large in my memory.

And abortion.  All things considered Roe was still recent history. I made signs on poster board and marched in the annual pro-life rally every January. I watched the videos. I listened to the radio interviews.

What is paramount in my memory was being told that women were being lied to about what was really growing inside them.  "'They're' not telling them it's a baby. 'They're' telling women it's a blob of tissue. They don't know they're killing their unborn child." Women were more victim than perpetrator.

I don't have any reason to believe this isn't true, though reports may have been exaggerated for effect.  That's unpleasant enough, but it's worse that in 2014 most women know exactly what they're doing and they're still doing it. This is why waving around graphic photos of aborted babies doesn't work.

If you don't believe me, take a deep breath and read My Year as An Abortion Doula on Slate.

The fetus comes out easily; they put it in the bucket and shove it near me. It is fully intact, curled on its left side, fists closed, knees bent up. He sleeps just like you, I think. Then, a second thought, an act of distancing: He looks more like an alien than a person.  
I have, by this point, seen lots of women and lots of fetuses, and the sight of the second doesn't change my feelings about the first.

This clever manipulation of our language by which we reject the simple and obvious word baby for the less emotionally-charged fetus (it's cliche, but I can't help but think of George Orwell's prophetic linguistic invention, doublespeak) has made abortion appear straightforward and sterile in a way that Margaret Sanger never dreamed.

This woman, certified as a doula to support women during the painful process of child birth (read my own experience here), is using her skills to help women end the life she's been trained to help ease out naturally. This is a difficult juxtaposition for me to accept, but I'll let that go.

Instead I focus on her indifference to what she is witnessing. Oh yes, she admits it's difficult, especially at the beginning, and the enlightened commentators following her column praise her straightforward, honest depiction of a "complicated" issue.  But her unswerving belief that what she's doing is for the Greater Good even as she witnesses the transfer of a dead, doll-size human into a bucket is disturbing.

Let's re-imagine the last sentence quoted above. "I have, by this point, seen lots of women and lots of their babies dead by their own hands and the sight of their lifeless bodies doesn't change my feelings about a woman's desire to live the way she wants."

I'm being brutal. I can't help it. This is an article on a popular online magazine in the most developed country the world has ever seen. And we're casually writing and reading about a the experiences of one woman helping another woman kill her unborn child and watching it get shoved into a bucket, fully intact.

The more you read it, the harder it is to believe it.

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Friday, July 04, 2014

Independence Day

It was past  bedtime when I corralled our oldest kid into bed. We're reading a favorite children's series to him right now, but there was no way I was going to read an entire chapter (the last chapter) this late. So I decided it would be a story from his Jesus Storybook Bible.

We're at roughly the Annunciation and though we've read every story in this particular children's Bible before, when reading them aloud to my kids, the profundity of the stories that many of us learned as children (Adam, Esther, Moses, David, Daniel, Jesus)--we're even tempted to call them "children's Bible stories"--is staggering.

The Good News. That's what "gospel means."

I try to impress this deeper meaning on my children, but sometimes it doesn't feel like good news, especially in light of its necessity to start with the bad news that you're tangled up in the Fall; you're culpable; you're a sinner.

But the bad part MUST be part of the good news. It just must. Because with the news that there is actually something wrong with me comes the flip side of the coin that that crookedness has a healer and He is present. So it's bad--and man do I fight it--but really it turns out to be all good. If I don't accept the uncomfortable truth about myself, I never get the soul-washing gladness that comes on the other side.

All the crookedness you're clinging to precisely because it's quite literally your nature will bring you a whole life of pointless grasping but He can fix it.

I trust that God will drive home, over time, the power of the gospel hidden in the seemingly simplistic stories we read to our kids.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Half a Person, Abroad

I'm about to leave for my first international vacation since my honeymoon.  I've traveled a lot, a handful of times abroad. I've always left the United States whole.

Not this time. I have a husband now and I always feel like half a person when we're apart. The two young children that moved in and eat our food and explode our idea of free time--they have really pulled me apart.

It's a treat to go to the grocery store alone, but ten minutes into shopping and something feels off. Where are the wee voices that should be prattling nonstop? No one is asking me to get out or back in the shopping cart. I pass the cereal aisle unmolested. There is no negotiating, no coaxing, no laughter, no revelations.

Can I really be so attached to a person that going to the grocery store alone is at once liberating and boring?


And so I travel half a person,  a shadow. I'll drink it in and savor the liberty all the time absorbing every funny moment, every unusual situation, every reminder of things at home and store them all up to tell my children.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Courtesy of my mother, who is always timely

Terror accomplishes no real obedience. Suspense brings forth no fruit unto holiness. No gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favor can subdue one lust, or correct our crookedness of will. But the free pardon of the cross uproots sin, and withers all its branches. Only the certainty of love, forgiving love, can do this. — Horatius Bonar, God’s Way of Holiness

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

No Going Back

Some things can never be undone, sometimes never even unfelt.

Alas! how easily things go wrong! 
A sigh too deep, or a kiss too long, 
And then comes a mist and a weeping rain, 
And life is never the same again. 

Every ugly thing remains ugly and there is no wishing it away or recovering the white, quiet place before it happened. There is no going back, however hard one wishes it.

But there is forward.

There is Further Up and Further In. There is Sadness Coming  Untrue. There is the full bloom, when the seed dies and the plant becomes itself in fullness, when every sigh that was too deep, every kiss too long, every choice too sad is swallowed up in Forgiveness and Forgetfulness.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

girlfriday: get thee a new angle

This is a shameless repost (with edits) of one of my favorites, originally submitted June 2006.

I rue the day the dairy industry launched its "Got Milk?" campaign. It spawned a generation of unoriginal ad campaigns that nauseate and bore millions of marketing-conscious Americans.

Got Jesus?
Got Plaque?
Got Radiator Problems?
Got gastro-intestinal trouble?

Got an original thought?

Think how effective and refreshing a sign that read, "Do you need a new transmission? We offer transmissions at a fair price" would be. Or, "You're welcome at our church." Or, " First-Time Patients: Free Teeth Cleaning. Call 555-5555."

Cleverness only works if you're clever. If you're a dentist odds are you're not. Remember that your competitors are also trying to produce a marketing scheme that will attract consumers, and most of them don't know how to do it either. They are resorting to the trite "Got ?" campaigns. Join them and you will be fatally commonplace.

If you don't have the budget or edge to compete with McDonald's' million dollar advertising campaigns, don't. Offer a good product, sell it professionally and with class. When in doubt remember that less is more.
This goes for email correspondence, letters, websites, news reports, journal entries, and notes jotted on paper while driving.

We all try too hard (I certainly do); we all make marketing mistakes. But failure is no excuse to keep failing. Attempt to write simple, declarative sentences. It hurts, but it's worth it.

If you need help eliminating unnecessary text, there used to be a Windows add-on called Bullfighter. An inconspicuous tool that, with the push of a button, would review your text for "bull" Bullfighter was delicious. Today, you'll probably have to rely on the most ruthless editor you know to scan your text for jargon. 

Another helpful document that I've frequently referenced is, "Why Bad Ads Happen to Good Causes" which was originally published by the Robert Wood Johnson  Foundation. While it was aimed at helping nonprofits build meaningful public service campaigns, it's hard to overstate the usefulness of Bad Ads for anyone writing marketing copy. Click here to download it (free).

And if you need that ruthless editor I'm happy to be yours. Please note the ruthless in the previous sentence and make your decision carefully.

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