What Prayer Can Be

Sunday evening at the end of Evening Prayer, a young man in our midst whom I respect and treasure very much offered to say the prayers for the night.  He asked if there were any prayer concerns.  Our Princess spoke up and looked over at me as if seeking approval for her request.  She shared about her upcoming piano recital and how nervous she was.  I realized this was important to her, but what really touched my heart is that she felt comfortable in this group of adults to share her innermost feelings.

A couple of minutes later Cooter raised his hand.  He shared that he had auditioned for a play and that he would be finding out about his part and beginning rehearsals the next day.  He too was nervous…..and very excited.

My heart was overwhelmed.

As the young man offered a heartfelt, beautiful prayer for illnesses and diagnoses and peace and healing, he also asked for calming of nerves and the ability to do what needed to be done to do a good job and feel comfortable playing the piano, standing on a stage.

Bless him.  His words were just right.

I will admit that I lifted my head just a little as our friend asked for peace for Cooter, who was sitting right in front of me.  What I saw was so precious it moved me to tears.  His countenance was turned to the sky and he was looking around, slowly, with a delighted look of anticipation.  And then it hit me.

He was looking for God.

Oh my heart.

Prayer can do beautiful things and open up eyes and hearts looking for God.

There’s a story that is being shared rampantly across social media.  The story of a daddy/daughter date at their local fast food restaurant.  While there, they saw a man come in whom the dad writing this assumed, based on appearance, was homeless.  The man went up to the counter and asked if they had any extra food.  He waited on a manager, and the man watching him noted his kindness and the way he smiled at folks around him.  When the manager came out, he offered a full meal, not just leftover scraps, to the hungry man who had asked for food, and the only thing he “required” was that the man let the manager pray with him.  The “homeless” man agreed, and the manager stopped what he was doing and prayed what was described as a beautiful prayer filled with love.  And at some point during this prayer, the daddy watching it all and writing about it snapped a photo of the hungry man and the manager.

At this writing, this has been shared over 109,000 times on social media.  People are praising this manager and this restaurant for their Christian ideals.

Oh me.

A hungry man was fed.  A good thing, right?

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Ericd at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t know if this man actually was homeless or not, because the person who wrote the about this didn’t share the man’s name or his story.  He didn’t mention asking about it.  The thing is I have friends who are homeless.  They have names like Mac and Rick and Donna and Travis and Roger and Tonya.  They have powerful and broken stories as to why they are without a home to find refuge in.  They have stories of how they have been treated and what they have had to do in the face of hunger.  They also have stories of kind people and people who have used them.  And that is why this story tears me up inside.

What they have had to do to get food when they are hungry breaks my heart.  That someone would require one of my friends to pray with them before getting food, not knowing how long it had been since he or she had last eaten…..that does more than break my heart; it makes me sick to my stomach.

In all fairness, I read some of the comments in the thread. I could hear how pleased folks were with what this manager had done.  I wondered if maybe I was missing something, so I wrote my wise friend and advocate for those in the margins, Hugh Hollowell from Love Wins Ministries in North Carolina.* What he had to share opened my eyes even more, and he put what I was struggling with into words.  Good words.

“The way to think about this is to replace ‘prayer’ with ‘whatever the helper wants to do.’  When seen that way, it is horribly offensive, and can be abusive. If Aub broke down, and asked for help, and some guy said he would give her a lift if she went out with him, that would be seen as creepy as hell. That is exactly the same scenario. Guy asks for help, the helper will only help if the recipient will do what makes the helper happy…..it is all about what the giver wants, and not at all about the recipient.”

My friends who are homeless will tell you they aren’t walking around with a lot of dignity.  Folks aren’t eager to hear their thoughts on much of anything.  They aren’t given the respect and consideration that other folks are given.

Think about it.  This man’s picture was taken.  It was shared OVER 109,000 times and, to my knowledge, no one asked his permission.  I’m not sure anyone bothered to ask his name.  Did anyone invite him to sit down and eat with them?  The man on the daddy/daughter date watched it all and took a picture of the actual prayer to put with his story.  While I don’t know what happened after the prayer was said, there is no mention of anyone reaching out to this man and taking the time to get to know him.  I sure hope it happened that way, but I have my doubts.

It makes me sick to my stomach that prayer was used as a bargaining tool for food.  A basic need.  I can’t even begin to imagine what I would do to get food for myself (let alone my children) if I were hungry and someone said, “Sure but first I require…..”  That this has been hailed as a beautiful Christian act makes me realize once again why my friend Mac once asked me, when he was trying to figure out why I was giving him a ride, “So what are you?  One of them…..Christians?”

That last word was said with disdain.  Since reading this story, my heart has been heavy wondering just what all has happened to my friend at the hand of well-intentioned Christians that has him saying the word in such a tone.

It’s not okay, y’all.

We are supposed to love.  Without conditions.  Or demands.  Or requirements.  Just love.

Or, in the face of hunger, feed.  That’s a form of love.  No tests, no hoops to jump through, no questionnaires.

Prayer can be a beautiful thing.  It is relational, something that makes it very holy to me.  What happened on Sunday night, when Cooter and our Princess were prayed for, that was sacred.  It was beautiful and it touched my children deep in their souls.  Our Princess hasn’t blinked an eye of worry over the recital and has practiced intently ever since that prayer was offered for her.  Cooter took it to heart and felt only anticipation and joy as Monday afternoon rolled around.

Prayer is beautiful.  Those prayers were heartfelt.  Because my children asked for them, specifically sharing their needs, in a room where they felt safe with people they felt connected to.  And the prayers were offered by a young man who knows their names and listens to their stories and has a relationship with them.

And that to me, makes all the difference in the world.  When prayer is asked for, and it is freely given, that is a beautiful, precious, and holy thing.

Tonight I’m thankful for the people in that room Sunday night who seek and build and nurture relationships and who try to love each other just as we were commanded to do.  I’m thankful for a young man with a giving heart, one that listens for the whispers of grace and talks to God with unfaltering trust and faith.  I give thanks for my friend Hugh and people like him who teach the rest of us about loving folks, all folks, and giving them the respect we all deserve and the love we all yearn for.  I am thankful for folks who ask others their names, hear their stories, and build community such that when one needs a friend or guidance or peace, they feel safe asking for what they need and for prayer.

Prayer can be a beautiful thing.  But it should never be currency.  Or required.  It should connect us, not separate.

Love to all.

 

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*It is interesting that I went to Hugh for his input on this story.  It was Hugh’s writing about prayer that first stirred my heart years ago and led me to work through some hard questions I had about prayer.  If you’d like to learn more about or support his mission, please click here.  You can subscribe to his weekly newsletter about the pursuit of beauty here.

 

You Are More

Cooter has become fascinated with stories of things people got in trouble for when they were his age.  He has had many conversations with his Daddy about his.  Recently he asked Leroy if he got in trouble at school.  Leroy told him he couldn’t tell them what all he did when he was younger.  I think Cooter was a little scared and a whole lot in awe of his uncle.

He asked me the same question recently.  I decided to tell him the truth.  Something I’ve been carrying around for a long time.  Something I’m not proud of, and I still hang my head when I tell it.

And so I confessed to my eight year old son.  When I was not much older than him, I was sitting in the lunchroom in between my friend and LP (the one who had bullied me the year before and had pulled my thumb back over and over and my parents had told me to kick him in the shin).  I always took my lunch, but the two of them had each bought their lunches.  I don’t know what else was on the menu that day but for sure there was cornbread and something that ketchup could complement.  Everyone was done eating, and we were just waiting to be told to line up to head back to the classroom.  My friend nudged me, handed me her ketchup, and whispered for me to pour it over LP’s uneaten cornbread.  We both knew he was done eating, but she thought it would be funny, and in the moment, I thought she was funny and while something was rippling in the back of my brain, I took the little paper cup of ketchup and squeezed it out over his cornbread while he was turned talking to the person on his left.  And we waited.

We could hardly stand it.  When he turned back around and saw the ketchup, his face turned nearly as red as the condiment.  We giggled behind our hands and between each other.  He was mad.  And so he did what most fourth graders do when they are mad–he told the teacher on us.

Oh me.  This was a joke gone horribly wrong.  One that gave us two or three days sitting out at recess.  This was back before PE, back when we could talk amongst ourselves and play near about anything we wanted to.  So missing any recess was a huge loss. To add insult to injury this teacher had taught my Uncle and my Daddy, and I felt like I had let her and pretty much the whole world down with my poor judgment and horribleness.  My heart was broken over what I was sure was absolutely my worst day ever.  At least the worst thing I had ever done.

Cooter laughed.  He barely squeaked out, “Ketchup?  Really?”  Yes, and don’t make light of it, buddy.  I learned that lesson. Not my plate.  Not my cornbread.  Doesn’t matter if he wasn’t going to eat it.  Doesn’t matter if someone else “told” me to do it.   I have my own brain, and I didn’t use it that day.  I was all about the fitting in and giggles and all the feel good of that moment.  And the truth that I now realize as an adult is that the reason LP told on us was probably because he saw us giggling together and he didn’t feel like he fit in.  It wasn’t about the ketchup on the cornbread, it was about our singling him out.

I’m so sorry, LP.

The thing is, whenever I do something that is less than my best or I make a mistake or I inadvertently do or say the wrong thing, I’m in fourth grade again.  I’m nine and my face is beet red and I’m looking Mrs. W in the eyes as she looks at me and my friend with disappointment and tell us we can’t play at recess.  I’m sitting next to her or whatever teacher is out there and trying to explain my embarrassing predicament to those who want to know why we aren’t playing.

Life is hard, y’all.

But here’s the good news.

I am more than that mistake.

I am more than the wrong I inflicted upon LP and his cornbread.

I am bigger than the poor choice I made.

I am more than my worst day.

And so, my friend, are you.

My beautiful friend Marilyn and I were talking about this earlier.  She gave me the grace and encouragement I needed today.  That I need everyday. We all make mistakes.  None of us have lived a flaw-free life, one where we have never, ever crossed a line or hurt anyone.  We all have stories we’d rather not have to share.

Let ’em go.

We are more.

We are the love we share.  The hugs we give.  The light that shines from who we have become and what we do–and who we are becoming.  We are all the right choices we have made over the years as well.

Do not let your one ketchup-pouring moment define you.

Because there is grace.  There is redemption.  There are second and third and twenty-twelfth chances.  You can do this.  You can turn it around.  As long as you have breath, the possibility exists–you can do better.  And become more.

More than those poor choices.  Those bad moments.  Those mistakes that you really didn’t set out to make.

And to be honest, this was not my only non-stellar moment from my life–it’s not even my only non-stellar moment from that year.  But it is the one that sticks out, as I was so grieved over all those I’d disappointed.  I had to look them in the eyes and face what I’d done.

And you know what?  A few days later, grace won.  Love won.  My time “sitting out” was done, and the slate was clean.

Redemption is real.  And attainable.  And free.

May we all let go of our worst moments.  And allow others to let go of theirs.  Our most painful mistakes.  And may we look in the mirror and offer the grace we so freely give to others to the one looking back at us.

Love and grace to all.

fighting fire with fire

My hero and friend, Hugh Hollowell, shared this on his Facebook page yesterday. It troubles, motivates, moves me. And scares the mess out of me, to be perfectly honest. I’m still wrapping my brain and heart around it. But it’s not going anywhere. It sits patiently, staring, unblinking waiting on me to get it. And to STAND UP.

“Few are guilty. All are responsible.” – Abraham Herschel

People are burning down churches. Black churches. Houses of God. For a moment I wondered if the person or people responsible really think they are accomplishing what they are setting out to do. I also have struggled with my responsibility in this. I didn’t burn those churches. But on some level, I am responsible. What do I do with that? How do I go about rebuilding those churches?

I’m not sure. But I want to talk about it. About the reparations. Of buildings, spirits, and hearts. And relationships. Now is not the time to be pointing fingers and drawing lines in the sand. Now is not the time to divide and attack each other. History says “divide and conquer” works. We shall not be conquered and bow down before hatred. No. Never.

And so this image has been going through my mind today. The one that I learned about when I was young–of how forest fires are often fought. They light a backfire to burn all of the brush. One that they can control. So that when the raging fire gets there, there is nothing there for it to consume, and it will die out. And it was that image that brought these words to mind.

fighting fire with fire

the gas was poured and the match lit
seeking to burn down the building
and the spirits of those who gathered there

it was done in hatred and loathing
and brokenness and pain
a lashing out at others
in an attempt to trample the spirits
of those who are different
than the one who sought to burn

but the backfire was already lit
long, long ago
in the passion and love of those who once gathered
in that holy hall
and sang to the rafters their praises
these flames of love had already been burning
long before hate came to destroy

and those flames will keep burning
high and mighty
licking the sky
quelling the fire of hate
as it approaches
the sound of voices raised in love
and grace
and forgiveness
will drown out the roar
of the flames of prejudice

love will rebuild
and restore
and regroup

love will put the flames
of hurt and destruction out
and every time that match is lit
the eternal flame of love
will burn it out

each and every time

love will recreate
love will use what was meant for evil
and shine through the ashes of all
that was lost

like the rays of the morning sun
gently stirring the souls awake
love will awaken the flames of
all that is good
in each person, one by one,

until in the end,
love wins

By 4028mdk09 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By 4028mdk09 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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This evening as my Aub and I gathered together in a circle of 100 or more people gathered at the Vigil, I looked down in the midst of the singing, and I saw this leaf there on the ground in front of me.  It intrigued me and comforted me.  As prayers were said for the one inside the building hidden by the woods, awaiting to know if her life was about to end or not, I focused my heart on the prayer and my eyes on the leaf.  As prayers were said for the ones who know and love her and would grieve for her both inside and outside of the building with the bars, I focused my heart on the prayer and my eyes on the leaf.

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At first I thought it was a cross, but as I looked a little longer, I realized it was a dove.  Of peace.

And my heart and soul breathed a sigh of release.

And a prayer for grace and mercy.

Tonight I am thankful for a life that is still being lived, a story still being told, and for the souls who shared their stories and hopes with us as we stood in the cold and hoped and prayed and laughed and cried together.  I am thankful for weather delays and cloudy medicines and the chance that hearts could still be changed and justice and mercy can go hand in hand to continue the life of one who cares, who has saved lives herself, and who has told folks they were better than their circumstances.  Of one who loves.

As for what tomorrow will bring, I focus my heart on the prayers and my eyes on the dove.  On peace.  And grace.  And mercy.

And I know that whatever story comes next, in the end, Love Wins.  It just has to.

Love to all.

 

 

 

Other Thoughts:  The Sanctity of Life and the Miracle of Grace

 

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Love is Always in Season

The day is here.  Everything is red hearts and pink hearts and roses and chocolates and Sweethearts Conversation hearts.

All things I can do without.

Well, maybe except for the conversation hearts.  I used to think those things had some kind of “Magic Eight Ball” foretelling ability.  And we all know the M8B knew…..

I remember the year we made a Valentine’s Day card holder when I was in elementary school.  It was two huge hearts–I think mine were blue, very telling–glued together around the edges, leaving the top open.  For some reason, we used paper folded accordion style for arms and legs and I drew a face on the heart.

Precious.  Ahem.

I don’t remember all the cards I got over the years, but I do remember obsessing over how the card was signed–“Did he write “Love, Me” or just “Me,” and did he add a smiley face or not?  Was it one of the regular-sized cards in the box or was it one of the rarer super-sized ones?   I think I was finally over V Day when, in high school, they did the big carnation sale.  At least I think that was on Valentine’s.  What a day.  There was the girl who ended the day with several carnations, some from her “BFF’s” and even more from boys who hoped to win her heart.

And then there were those of us who left for home carrying only our books and a little heavier hearts.

I’m fine really, but the pressure of the day…..It was way back then that I pretty much wrote off the day.  I’d much rather do what one of my aunts does and just give you something when the mood strikes me, and not when Kay and Hallmark and Helzburg and Ferrero Roche tell me I have to.

There was one year that was special though.  I don’t know why or what for, but Daddy had found himself at the Wal-Mart.  This was over twenty-five years ago.  I can’t imagine what need took him there–a ball of twine?  Duct tape? A case of oil?  Anyway, when he came home, he handed each of us girls a small, clear plastic ball that had a pair of (I think) knee highs in them, and said, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”  (No exclamation point there, it took a lot for his voice to rise, and usually it wasn’t good.)

Mine were lavender.

And I don’t think I ever wore them.

They were a treasure, you see, unexpected as they were, and from my most favorite guy ever.

Cooter was due at the end of February in 2007.  Since our Princess had been two weeks early, I figured he would be born on Valentine’s Day.  I joked–“Valentina for a girl, Valentino for a boy.”  It was a reasonable assumption.  Instead he was two and half weeks early and born on the 10th.  As we were spending our last night in the hospital, our night nurse, Miss Suzette, came in to weigh him.  She held him close and looked at his sweet face with the tenderest of expressions.  “He can have a Valentine’s themed birthday.”  In those moments she saw this little baby, my first boy, grow up before her eyes–something I wasn’t able to do yet, but the love in her eyes touched me, and I still remember being teary-eyed as we said goodbye.

Seventeen years ago, I spent Valentine’s Day morning at a Scrapbooking workshop.  (I was a really awesome scrapbooker for about a year or so–Aub has six months of her life in one to prove it.  *sigh*)  When I got back to Mama’s to pick up my little two-year old, Mama stopped me at the back door.  Daddy’s vehicle wasn’t there.  She told me the heartbreaking news.  My Granny, whom I adored and loved and still miss so much, had died.

She’d been sick, yes.  But still.

She was in a better place.  Oh, don’t I know it.   Celebrating with the great love of her life.  But still.

She had lived a long life.  Yeah, I guess.  But still.

Daddy had gone to her house.  To do what a child does when his/her parent dies.

As I think about Valentine’s Day, and how it is supposed to be all about love, I look back over this patchwork quilt of motley memories from this same day in the years past.  And I see LOVE written all over them.

Oh, not that the advertisers would recognize it–there’s no chocolate or diamonds or vase full of flowers.  (Not even ONE carnation, people, not even one.)

But there’s LOVE.  Of a stranger for a child she’d likely never meet again.  Of a teacher who helped each one of her students create and design and feel special on a day that could very well have one or more feeling left out.  Of a Daddy spending a dollar apiece to show his infinite love to his children.  Of a son for his mother.  Of a Mama for her daughter.  Of a Mama for her son.

Love that lasts a lifetime and not just one day.  Or season.

So if I’m not wearing red tomorrow, but have on my shirt with hearts in April, maybe you will understand.  If I shy away from all the “love” posts on social media or roll my eyes at the commercials that are intended to make you feel “less than” if you aren’t giving your love “this” or “that,” don’t be surprised.  If you ask me what the Fella and I are doing for supper on Valentine’s and I reply “heat up leftovers and watch ‘Worst Cooks in America’ or ‘Chopped’ with the littles” with a great big smile on my face, please don’t think me callous.  Or unromantic.

In the words of Bob Goff, “Love does.”

In the words of Hugh Hollowell, “Love wins.”

In the words of Jesus, “Love is patient and kind…..

In the words of my heart, “Love is not for a day or a season, it’s for always.  And for all.  Period.  The end.”

So yes, I’ll celebrate love on Valentine’s Day.  Same as I try to do every other day.

With a smile, a hug, hanging out with the ones whom I love most, and sharing the journey.  Doing and winning and loving.

 

May your day be just what you need it to be.  Make it yours.

Love to all.

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My Shark Tank Worthy Idea

Today I was folding clothes.

Nothing different about that.  Most days find me folding a load or two.

But today as I was taking on Mt. Washmore, I had a revelation–a business idea.

Somebody sign me up for Shark Tank.  I’m going to be an entrepreneur.

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I was folding these two shirts that we got on Monday when Aub and I attended the workshop with Hugh Hollowell and David LaMotte.  I smiled at the memories of the day and all the great discussions, and I realized that would likely happen each time I wore or folded these shirts.

And maybe, really, that was why I got them?

I thought about the shirt my oldest got at the Miranda Lambert concert.  Did she get it because, more than anything in this life, she wanted to wear Miranda Lambert’s face across her chest?  I don’t think so.  I think she got caught up in the moment and wanted to have something–a t-shirt–to remember it by.

Same thing with the Jonas Brothers concert, the trip to Disney, and the field trip to see Wicked at the Fox–something to wear to remember those feelings and emotions and the experience.

And so here’s where my business idea comes in.

An app (because, obviously) that you can hit a button and the moment is “captured” and a unique, custom-made t-shirt to commemorate the moment is immediately designed and you receive it in 24-48 hours.  Happy Wearing!  And Remembering.

I mean, when you attend these big events, the shirts and hoodies and whatnot are all already there.  But what about those times when there are no souvenir sellers?

When you cook a meal that everyone raves about…..*click*  “Mama’s cooking RULES” shirt at your door the very next day

When you make it to your appointment on time despite all the bad traffic…..*click* “Keep Calm and Let Mama Drive”

When you have solved the problem of how to fit all of the dirty dishes in the dishwasher AT ONE TIME…..*click* “Because #cleandishescleansink”

When you breathe in the smell of freshly washed hair when your little one comes in to hug you…..*click* “Mamahood–Best. Job. Ever.”

When you are reading a really good book and you hear your children calling you and so you tell them you’re playing hide and seek…..*click* “This is not the Mama you are looking for” (sorry, had to have the token Star Wars reference)

All of those precious, small moments that you just wish could last a moment or two or an eternity longer happen, you would be able to capture them and have a t-shirt to remember it by.

How cool would that be?

Tonight I’m thankful for the reminder that not every precious moment in this life is a big “live one night only show” one–that there are those small quiet and not so quiet ones that mean everything and we wish could last forever that are beautiful too.

Wishing you all a t-shirt wearing, slogan worthy day.

Love to all.

 

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In all seriousness, I will wear these shirts we got on Monday because I believe in their message and because the purchase of them went to help with their mission.  I do believe Love Wins, and it is my hope that we will all see the person beyond the homelessness and find what we have in common and celebrate THAT.  If you’d like to support the mission of Love Wins and/or wear a really cool shirt just like me–you can click here and order your own.  Now that’s something to smile about.

 

The Ugly Duckling, Honey Boo Boo, and Belinda Carlisle–Oh My!

Disclaimer:  This is the post that won’t go away, keeps insisting on being written. Sometimes these stories do that–demand to be told. I can tolerate a lot of things but not intolerance.  So here it goes.

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Today was Grand Opera House Day.  I love live theater as I have mentioned before here.  So knowing this was coming up, I was excited.  I rarely tell my littles where we are going ahead of time–I learned my lesson one too many times when plans had to be changed.  We made the drive up to Macon with them guessing.  It was funny the guesses they made.  Finally Cooter said, “I bet it’s the Grand Opera House.”  I asked him why.  “Because you made me wear long pants and a nice shirt.”  Ahh, that would be correct.

Photo courtesy of Grand Opera House http://www.thegrandmacon.com/grandkids/

Photo courtesy of Grand Opera House http://www.thegrandmacon.com/grandkids/

The performance was very unique and entertaining.  It was The Tortoise and the Hare and The Ugly Duckling performed in Lightwire, a style I believe was created by the performers.  Performed in complete darkness, the characters were outlined and illustrated (for lack of a better word) with these colored lines that seemed to glow.  The Tortoise and the Hare was hilarious, set to classical music and some classic hits as well, as the hare became so distracted by his cell phone, a tv and remote, and a bunch of carrots.  (One of my favorite parts was that my children recognized and were excited by the tv theme songs from Gilligan’s Island and The Andy Griffith Show–yeah, we’re just that old school.)  In the time between the two shows, a worm came out and danced to “U Can’t Touch This.”  Young and old (ahem) alike were clapping and laughing and dancing in their seats.

It’s been a while since I read the Ugly Duckling.  The closest I’ve come to it lately was watching The Ugly Dachshund with the littles all over again. (Old Disney classic–if you haven’t watched it you should.)  Oh y’all.  This story broke my heart.  To the sound of classical music and songs from The Nutcracker, the little swan was born in the wrong nest and was turned away by the Mama Duck and her four new little baby ducklings.  The baby swan tried and tried to play and be friends, but they all turned their backs and shook their heads no.  In one poignant scene, the baby swan walked around sadly while “I Am Beautiful” sung by Christina Aguilera played.  I was close to tears.

“I am beautiful

in every single way

Words can’t bring me down”

And I guess what broke my heart is that we all know words can.  It seems more and more incomprehensible stories of bullying and the aftermath of it are being shared, and these horrors and heartbreak should NOT be happening.

As I sat listening to the song thinking how we do bring each other down with our words, Facebook came to mind.  Particularly some posts I’ve seen the past couple of days. There is a rumor going around locally that Honey Boo Boo might be moving into the area with her family and possibly attending a local elementary school.  Most of the comments were unkind and unfavorable and may I also say, unfair, in my opinion.  What made me saddest was these were people I know are caring and loving.  I’m just not sure where these comments were coming from but surely it wasn’t from their hearts.  I’ve seen that their hearts know better, but in their words about this, it didn’t show.  For goodness’ sake, she is a CHILD.  They are human beings.  Just like all the rest of us.

Here’s the deal.  Honey Boo Boo is a reality tv show.  She is a “character,” and from what I hear, a lot of the reality shows that fill our living rooms these days are scripted and directed to go in a certain direction.  Here’s what I do know. This is a family of hospitality.  They welcome folks to come see them, and they support their community through food and toy drives for one example.  People who have met them in person have shared how nice they thought the family was.  Can they be crass?  Sure.  Have they made choices different from what I would have?  Okay, yes.  Are they bad people I wouldn’t want living in my neighborhood?  I have to say no.  (Maybe Mama June would be my new BFF forevuh–Aub says I squint like her even with my glasses on.)  I’m afraid we are turning into a hypothetical “Love thy neighbor” society.  Love my neighbor.  Except for that swan that showed up out of nowhere.  And that crazy reality tv show family.  But other than that, yeah, love my neighbor just like the Good Book says.

No one is all good or bad. Not a single one of us. It’s all gray as I’ve come to realize more and more.  I don’t like it anymore than anyone else.  I wish I could put folks in a Good box or Bad box.  But it’s just not reality.  Reality is a family that burps and loves the mess out of each other.  Reality is a swan that is born in the midst of a bunch of ducks and just wants to be accepted.  Yes her honk is a lot louder and not very pretty, but she is strong and brave and cares enough to save the baby duckling from that mean cat (who later worked out his angry issues and changed for the better).

At the end of the play today, they made me a very happy girl.  They closed with the baby swan and a duckling and the cat and Mama Duck all dancing together to Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth.”

Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth?
Ooh heaven is a place on earth
They say in heaven love comes first
We’ll make heaven a place on earth

…………….

In this world we’re just beginning
To understand the miracle of living
Baby I was afraid before
But I’m not afraid anymore

I loved this song when I was back in college.  Turns out I still do.  Today as I watched the glowing critters dancing and making nice together, the words really hit me full force.  We can make heaven a place on earth by loving each other and pushing out the fears–fear of folks who are different and who believe or act differently than us.

The thing is our children are listening.  Those same children who heard Mama or Daddy pitching one more fit tonight that Honey Boo Boo and clan might be moving to town are the same ones who will turn their backs on her or whisper behind their hands at school tomorrow.  Those baby ducklings didn’t shake their heads and turn their tail feathers at that baby swan because they just knew how.  They were watching Mama Duck and following her lead.  And so it goes with all of us.

Our children are watching.  And listening.

Our children are watching. And listening.

I’ve become more aware of how much my children are watching me and what I say I believe and I’m hearing it come back to me as little echoes.  Sometimes I am pleased, but others I am not.  I know better, I’ve got to do better.  I am starting to understand the “miracle of living” and I think it might just be loving all folks, whatever they believe, however they live.  I don’t have to act like them, I don’t have to agree with them, I just have to be kind and to love them.  And if we could do that, we could be well on our way to bringing heaven to our earth.  And wouldn’t that be something?