Jody

Walk into the service with your head hung low; a sign of misplaced respect for the deceased. Hug old friends and shake the hands of people you only slightly remember.

The deacons tell you to pick up a stone from a basket at the entrance. Curious, you think, but you gladly hold the small gray stone in your palm and massage the smooth surface with your fingers.

Smile and wince simultaneously at folks who nod as you pass them by in the tight pews. Too tight, you think, why do they make them so close together?

Throw the back of your brown, tweed sportcoat behind you. Notice, for the first time, that every man is wearing a black or navy blue suit with a white shirt and a dark tie and every woman is wearing a black dress with white fringe somewhere. 

Organ music swells. You wonder how they build instruments like that. So encompassing, the sound.

The service begins. The minister speaks like poetry. A rhythm that’s unmistakable. There’s no words out of place. Each word is as beautiful as the last. Each word carries a cosmic weight.

Friends and siblings speak effortlessly about her kindness, her wit, her writing, her love. Your friends cry when her sons get up to speak. When was the last time you saw any of them cry? You can’t recall really, but it’s been a long time, you’re sure of that.

They get through their short speeches with indelible strength. They pause when they must, to choke back all the things that come rushing forth. You are proud of them and wonder how you will do when you find yourself in their shoes one day.

You feel something hanging all around the room. God? You ask the inside of your head. He doesn’t answer audibly, though, maybe he doesn’t need to.

Her husband speaks. He is a good man and his goodness is profound in that moment. How deep his love is for her. Is not was. Is.

Piano playing, poems recited, favorite blues songs echo from the speakers. All of it quiet reflection for a woman who was like a second mother to you. You cry too, but mostly because it’s beautiful.

The minister tells the congregation to remember the stone they are holding in their hand. This stone is from Rhode Island. She has been going to the beach where the stones were collected since she was a small child. Feel the weight of the stone. Feel its texture. Cup it in your hands. Now, imagine that in one of her many years at that beach, she may have picked up the stone you are holding in yours hands. Then, think of a word that describes your relationship with her.

“Mother”

That’s the only word in your head. Mother to her sons. Mother to her son’s friends; adopted and brought in to the family.

The minister asks everyone to get up, row by row, and place the stone in a basin at the front; an act of letting go.

You let the stone go and listen to the sound it makes as it hits the rocks below it with a slight thud. It sounds like a final page turning and a book closing. It sounds like closure.  

You throw your arms around her sons and her husband. You sing a hymn you’ve never heard and you leave; with your eyes forward and your head up, a true sign of respect for your second mom.

The Cry

…And we continue from the genesis, where began the life and legacy of God’s people. We move to the sons of Israel who travel to Egypt after being invited by the Pharaoh. There, Joseph has died along with his brothers and all of that generation. Despite this, the Israelites are growing in numbers. They are fruitful and eventually, they fill the entire land.

But then a new Pharaoh arises.

One who does not know Joseph and his lineage. This new Pharaoh fears the Israelites from the very beginning. He says, “the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us.” He is afraid they will become a coursing river that swells and overtakes its banks. He is frightened for his empire that they will flood the land.

So, he decides to make them into slave laborers so, he can have power over them and oppress them. He is ruthless because he fears their foreign ways and worries they will join his enemies and fight against Egypt.

Families are then torn in two, separated and forced to live in cities the Pharaoh builds. This continues the massive oppression as Pharaoh seeks to regain the power he sees the Israelites gaining.

But the more the people are oppressed, the more they multiply and spread.

This angers the Pharaoh. So again he is ruthless. He makes their lives bitter. He breaks their backs with work in the city and in the fields. But he does not stop there.

He tells the Hebrew midwives to murder all the male children once the Israelite women give birth. He hopes to destroy their heritage. Because the midwives fear God, they disobey the King of Egypt’s commands.

The Pharaoh asks why they let the children live. The midwives are cunning and say, “Hebrew women were not like Egyptian women, they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives come to them.”

Now the Pharaoh is furious. Despite his tireless efforts, the people of Israel keep growing. But again, he does not stop there.

“Every son that is born to the Hebrews shall be thrown into the Nile,” Pharaoh decrees. He is inviting the people to join his sin. He is inviting them into the subjugation of an entire people group. He is inviting them to participate in genocide. In this, sin has moved from a personal level into an entire culture. The Pharaoh, with the help of the Egyptian people, will stop at nothing to thwart this ever expanding nation. He intends to rain ruin down upon them.

Made into slaves, ground into the fields they worked, separated from their families, their sons killed. All of this at the hands of a King who did not know their people’s history and saw them as nothing more than foreigners occupying his land. The people of Israel have nothing left to do, so they cry out to God hoping He hears them.

Person

Standing in front of you,
perhaps on a faded TV screen,
or on a pamphlet,
or a magazine cover
or in the flesh,

there is a gay man,
or a bisexual woman
or maybe someone who
doesn’t quite know which one
or why you need to know so bad,

They have bags under their eyes
Their shoulders are falling down
From carrying the weight,
The weight that you put there

This is a person you are looking at
Not a punchline
This is an image bearer
A child just like you
The universe in ecstatic motion

A piece of God’s personality
Emphasis on the “person”
Someone whom God loves dearly
Someone whom God died for
And wants to know deeply

Do they make you uncomfortable?
Good.
Why is that?
Who are you that rains down judgement?

You are not the judge
You are no chieftain
You are no almighty
You are no Lord

You are no great surveyor of the cosmos
You are no speaker of everlasting life
You did not form something from nothing
You have no real power here

Let’s thank God for that
Let’s thank God
He who has a plan
for the lowly and oppressed
He who knows our mess

When we cry from the rubble
He hears us and the rocks
groan along for His return

This is a person you are looking at
Not a punchline
A piece of God’s personality
Emphasis on the “person”

When You Speak

The thundering voice spoke today
You spoke today
I have been waiting
And today I listened

You said few words
But I heard them
You said, “Do not worry”
And then You said it again

I worry Lord
I worry ‘til there’s no more time left in the day
I worry and believe lies
I worry Lord

But today you said, “Do not”
So with my hands out I say, “Ok”
I will try and listen
Even though tomorrow I may not

Even though tomorrow, I’ll forget
And wrap myself up in all these lies
Until they are familiar
Until they become my friends

But today you said, “Do not”
And today I say, “Ok”
I will not worry today
I will believe in You alone

I will fight with the breath left
I will stand and face it
I will love
I will love You, God

Show me what You will
Show me Your will
Show me, Lord
For I will not worry today

Not after what You said

Like Prayers

If I only knew how many nights you’ve prayed for me,
maybe then, I wouldn’t want to take it. But I do. I really
do on those bad nights. You could never know how
bad. My life. Some sad haze washes over me when I
think about it. The makeshift altars run like prayers
along the side of the road. And mothers, like you,
wince when they see ‘em. I wince too but it doesn’t
mean I don’t see the beautiful things. On days
like this though, I guess I don’t notice as much.
She said, “Get right with the Lord,” and I mean to.
We all mean to, guess it’s just takin’ me longer.
Be patient with me God, but please hurry up. I’m not
sure how much longer I can swim in my own head.
I’m not sure how much longer I can drown.