…it’s a sad space… such an empty place… but its nice when you’re there.
It began with the neck
twisting slightly to the left
following a sound
of a heart’s bugle call.
It wasn’t smart, this turn
but blindly seeking
a missed beat, a correction,
And what began continued,
ears open wide
to the tide
of other things
the heart should know.
it followed through,
straining for more
of the sound
the head turned round
just a little more,
eyes tear away from the goal
of what was once ahead
and now instead
the straight ahead shifts
leftward, inward, more and again.
out of the familiar
to walk alone…
Away from all teachings
guidance, and direction
stepping out in faith
Knowing that the darkness brings
either a ledge to stand on
or lessons on how to fly,
and grace fed.
A new vista
till inward facing
into whence it came;
inside the Be
learning from the God
indwelling the soul
where He made Me whole.
Turning back to the dawn
of the self
lies wealth –
not of what was
but what I find
in the honest purity
of naked being.
At one with
maker and creation lies
I have always been astounded by the power friends have to bring hurt. Friends are people you trust to have access to your feelings, your thoughts, your information, on good faith and with love. They are people you share yourself with, that you let yourself be known to, vulnerable to, and they have an amazing power in their hands. And failing their consciousness around their own power, with some careless handling, this power can truly destroy.
Friendship has been a very strong theme on this blog. There have been many hurts, many vents, many priceless moments, and many lessons learned over the course of the past (almost) year. I have described the dangers of weak girls as friends, the impossibility of friendship with the man whore, the power of girlfriends, the need to be touched and comforted that is experienced by single women, the honoured place of the platonic husband, the desire for someone to be nice to in every one of us. This blog has been dedicated to everything BUT romance, but even in this dedication the need for togetherness is recognized as absolutely vital.
In recent days I had a challenging experience with more than one friend. I use the term friend still because I am not sure yet what to do about any of it. Forgiveness is in order… I acknowledge it makes no sense to hold on to hurt. But is reconciliation? Does it make any sense to hold on to people who hurt? I realize that in each case my friend and I see friendship from very different vantage points. I realize that we have two different sets of values. And I realize that values in friendship are important.
In chewing on my environment I have learned a few things about friendship. Two main values in particular jump out that are absolutely key.
1. The Values of the Friend
What is a friend? In thinking this through and determining whether my friend is truly a friend I have come to understand that what is inside a person is what the person is. I know this sounds simple. And I know it sounds airy fairy as well. But hear me out. What is inside the person is what the person is. A person’s actions, words, language, mannerisms all come out of their character. Their character comes from the actions that they have practiced into habit and second nature. The actions they have practiced into second nature and habit have come from decisions they have made to do this instead of that, go here instead of there, say this at this time and not say that at the next moment. These decisions have been made from their values. In what the person decides to be the thing they should do, “SHOULD” itself is defined by their values.
A person’s character is a dynamic thing yes. But it is complete. In this moment they are exactly what they are. No more no less. Their past is not here anymore. Their potential hasn’t yet come into being. Only what they are today is present with you. What they value today is all that is. Sure, they may have the necessary raw material to grow in a certain direction… but will they choose to? Yes, they may have all the potential in the world… but what is potential other than a belief of what could be? It certainly is not what is. Sure, I accept that they could grow. But they have not yet grown, not at this moment, anywhere beyond where they are. And waiting for a person to grow and come around to a place of being where you feel you can have a relationship with them that is mutually fulfilling can turn into throwing years of time away, gambling with your most precious possession of life itself, and casting your pearls before swine.
2. Alignment of Values is the definition of trust
Another thing I learned came out of a conversation with one of my brothers. He said something that has resounded within me for hours, bouncing and echoing through the hallways and channels of my brain and my veins. It came from something he had read recently on Trust. The author of whatever it was put it to their readers that trust is what is present when values are the same.
Think about it before I go any further. Chew on the phrase a little while. Trust is what is present when values are the same.
It isn’t some special ingredient or result at the end of a formula. It isn’t something manufactured, packaged in plastic, and sold from the shelves to supermarket shoppers. It doesn’t come from listening to self-help gurus and conjuring spells from witch doctors. It isn’t the immediate result of an “I Do” or an “I swear”. It only shows up where values are shared.
Let’s go back to number 1. If it is true that “What is inside the person is what the person is.” And if “A person’s actions, words, language, mannerisms all come out of their character,” which is at the very foundation “determined by their values.” Then the alignment of values, the sameness of foundation, is where trust exists.
Taking an example, there are two people who meet for the first time. They are put in the same place to work on the same project together as a team. The people are very different – one is tall the other short, one is a man the other a woman, one is from Africa the other from Asia. But let us say that both have at the core of their being a value system based on honesty, directness, diligence and pride in their work. How likely is it that they will be honest with eachother, appreciating the honesty in the other? How likely is it that they will not be offended by eachother’s directness? How likely is it that they will trust eachother more and more as they learn that they both take pride in their work and are dedicated to working diligently for it to happen? At the end of this project how do you see their trust relationship looking?
Take another pair. They are both men, both American, same height, same home town, speak the same language, and they shop at the same store. But say one has a value system based on honesty, directness, diligence and pride in his work. And the other has a value system based on creative diplomacy, expedience, politeness, and pride in his paycheck. How likely is it that directness will butt heads with politeness? How about expedience and diligence? Honesty and creative diplomacy? How well will pride in ones work fit in with pride in ones paycheck? Can you see how this might be a recipe for disaster?
Out of the values of a person springs the seed of who they are and what they do. Out of shared values sprouts trust. Out of trust grows friendship. And out of friendship blossoms love.
Last night I had a dream
that has begun to haunt my day
a visit from a little wisp
with claim that she was here to stay.
The little wretch was cute
in the way small things can be
but the closer that you looked
the clearer you could see
that the little thing was darkness
and her wings were tattered skin
she smelled like burning evil
and her words were full of sin.
She flew around my fingers
and up around my face
saying “get used to me lass
because your life is my place.”
Try as I might to shake her
I couldn’t make myself free
but she flew up to my fighting shoulder
and stung me like a bee.
I slapped her and defied her
as her fluttering wings from hell
tore up the air around me
and rose a stormy spell.
I prayed God get me loose
from this awful little witch,
get her out of my head
and let me dream without a glitch.
Sleep would not return
and so I rising sat
and saw my dogs had gone to town
and pooped all over the mat.
I came downstairs and found
another awesome mess and more
of soap dribbled through a grocery bag
to puddle on the floor.
As I bent to clean the messes
my dog raised his leg again
and honest to goodness it took all of me
to not murder and skin him.
As I wiped and cleaned and corrected
the pain up in my shoulder
throbbed and ached and gave a sense
of muscles getting older.
But then it came to mind
that right in that spot I’d had
a fairy sting the night before
by the wisp that I’d made mad.
The morning rolled on forward
and other matters shown
to be broken, spilled or not quite right
as I plodded on alone.
When finally I bewildered sat
with coffee to a chair
I drew a line upon the day
and made it very clear.
“Little malevolent spirit
my life is not your home
but my day belongs to me
and to my Lord alone.
To save your rotten wings
I suggest you fly away
before he rises with the sun
and burns you into yesterday.”
There is a group that meets monthly at the largest local bookstore on island. The people who assemble come from all sorts of places with all sorts of accents and all sorts of ideas. We share our writings and speak our truths in poetry.
In the last session there was talk around A Gathering of Old Men. Quite the conversation starter, this little book of stories. I had a friend recite the poem of Theophilus Brown and the power of this timbre married to the spirit of that poem brought to life the warrior of the old Obi man sent back to Africa on the ninth night. From the performance came the discussion of ideas – the purpose of our gifts, the power of words, the feelings of victims, the obedience to the powers that be, the pointlessness of rebellion, and revolutions of history. The story of Salomé Ureña, the Dominican poet, was savoured. An Ecuadorian shared her story of three poets from her hometown who were responsible for the removal of a brutal despot. She quoted one of them saying “There is nothing harder than the softness of indifference.” (Juan Montalvo) A Jamaican spoke of the stigma attached to the black cat and the themes of racism in societies of the Caribbean today. A Barbadian distinguished the Jamaican story from the histories of the other islands. A young man asked “How do you see revolution?” and an answer was given “Authenticity – each of us is responsible for our own story, to be it truthfully and boldly”. Another answer was “Be the change you wish to see in your world.”
And it was decided. For the month of July, to remember the American 4th and the purpose of the poet, the Floetry theme will be Revolution.
As my fellow floets turn to the task of writing, there is some inspiration to be found in what has already been written. This is one of my new favourites.
Have any of you read this book? If your answer is no then please click on The Four Agreements and order it immediately.
It may take you half a day to read, it is a tiny little book, but it could change your thinking and perhaps your day to day life.
I’ll give you guys a bit of time to read and come back with my review.
This is part of an old and complicated story… a place in my life that I was taken from with some amount of pain. Maybe one day I will tell it… but for now this is the message I had for a daughter who was once and briefly mine.
Even though I had no part in bringing you to life and didn’t give your little body a home, I am the woman honoured with shepherding you at this moment, the end of your girlhood. I see all my habits and flaws in the stark light of Truth. I see how much of me needs to change, and how much has changed by Grace, for me to be worthy of being your example.
I also see the innocence, the unbruised hope, and pray that it lasts throughout your life. I watch you battle next to me as I battle through the challenges of my life, practicing for your own womanhood in the shadow of my example. I see you grieve for me as I grieve, learn as I learn, and grow as I grow. And sometimes more.
I long for you to love yourself as I love you. You are a unique being created to reflect a beautiful part of God’s image that no other being has ever done or ever will do. So BIG and AMAZING is our God that each person, a prism to reflect a part of the image of who He is, is unique. Your piece, your unique image, is one that cannot be replicated and is beautiful and strong.
He must have been smiling designing this woman on His heavenly drawing table, delighted in her intricate mind and the mystery of each cell of her body. Late into the night I imagine that he drew, as the angels sang in the background. He put you in a welcoming womb and laughed with you as you first smiled up at your adoring mother as she counted ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes in awe. He grieved with you and sheltered you under his feathers when she was untimely ripped from your tender life. He sheltered you from blows and led you to a place of safety over very rocky ground and slippery slopes. Of COURSE He loves you!
You are special and dear to him and to me.
And so my dear one, never let any man, woman, pastor, friend, teacher or enemy change the way you look at you. YOU are beautiful for a reason – He decided you should be and delighted when He made it so. YOU are strong for a reason – He decided you would be and He made you so. YOU have your own mind for a reason – He wanted you to know Him for yourself and He made it so. YOU are right here right now for a reason – His plan for you is perfect and He will make it so.
Do you baby. Only you can do you. He made it so. And so, in thanks to Him, do you WELL.
At the time he was little more than a pup. But even then Julius was a gift to a lonely day. This, my dear Reader, is Flashback number 2.
The alarm clock went off and Julius went on standby. Stood up stock straight and still, his eyes followed my hand to the bedside table half-hidden beneath shaggy doggy brows. Snooze – ten minutes. He watched me roll over and slid back down to a crouch, resting his chin between his paws.
Ten minutes of gentle breathing FLEW by. As usual. Off it went again and Julius was back on standby. Attention! His head just below bed level. I looked the little beast in the face with his little pink tong peeking past his teeth as he panted quietly.
OK… up we go. As the feet swung over the side, Julius jumped up in celebration, tail wagging and a flurry of kisses on his hind legs. Front paws pausing in the air before bouncing off the side of the bed.
She’s up! She’s up! Come… lets get moving. He runs to the door and runs back, all excited about the walk that is sure to follow.
It’ is an honour and a privilege to have someone rejoice in the fact that you got out of bed this morning.
I imagine the angels tugging you out of sleep. OK… she’s drifting back… let the alarm go off. Ok… 10 minutes snooze? No problem. Hold the ceiling fan up… beat off that disaster. Keep the tree outside the window standing straight… another danger averted. The car that just passed the front gate… keep them headed straight and safe. Just can’t be too late – she has a full day of God’s work to do. Counting down again… 10, 9, 8… 3,2,1. UP PIECES UP. TIME TO GET UP. Legs swing over to meet Julius and there they are… trumpets sounding silently around me with the confetti – a job well done. Kept alive through a night’s sleep. How many didn’t make it this morning?
Thank you Father for getting me up, keeping me safe, providing food and shelter, and giving me a list of things to do today. And thank you Father, most of all…
To see the other Flashbacks in this series, visit the links below:
It has been a hard day of grief and pain. This time he is heeding my request to please stay clear and allow me to do my growing and grieving alone. But oh does it hurt!
“What hurts?” I have asked myself. It is the sucking drain of the disappointment drawing back the wave of joy that flooded over me at the realization that “I have found someone who I can love for the rest of my life!” It is a pain that tells of the stripping bare of the garden that bloomed in my heart, watered by that wave of joy. New leaves and fresh blooms all viciously uprooted in their youth, torn from my bosom. Holes that once held clutching roots and ground that was not so long ago shaded by trees are now dry and cracked and gaping, assaulted by a burning sun of Truth.
Truth that reveals every weakness in blinding, sweltering brightness. Truth that cuts through the beautiful words and whispered dreams passed lips-to-ear by the seaside. Cuts through the mirage of lies and folly-happy belief. Truth that burns away chaff. Leaving grief. Grief that the leafy ferns and tender orchids were not real but a bedtime story that needed to be grown out of. Grief at the loss of the cool, damp earth and fragrance of jasmine under a bright full moon all lost to truth.
Even when you tried you lied. Your lies covered my days with painted colours, a full garden of imaginings. Now all swirled and sucked into the vortex of the drain. If only I had not believed. If only I had not allowed you, time and again, to deceive. Truth tugged at me, peaking through the sky-flung Poinciana branches and so I slipped to the side to a greater comfort, deeper in your fanciful creation each time. Until the midday of my heart came and truth, right over my head, burned the matrix away. I am the one. The one who has to see and now must live in TRUTH.
And now… in the glaring light of the Truth that destroys all lies, I sit on a real stump of a real old tree – solid, dry, dead wood with the reprieve of Certainty that comes in the presence of Truth and the sound of the sea. Julius keeps coming back to check on me, walking only so far with the girls before coming back.
The darkness I battled with threatens to return and my mouth calls out for numbing rum. Things of the past. Tears come at awkward times, tugging on my composure and pealing the edges of my theater mask, my warrior mask, my happy mask. No mask sticks to a slick pair of cheeks! I sit with myself, in myself, smothered under myself and vomit onto the page every bilious thought that steals my quiet. And I glance down and see a piece of something shiny and pink. Shining through tear-chafed eyes. A gift, simple and rugged. A full and pink conch shell! If I had not sat there with my tears I would not have seen it.
After seeing the shell I put my book down and stooped to get it. But it was stuck. I dug around it with my fingers clearing the sand away between the roots of the old dead stump. The points at the top of the old conch shell were buried in the dead roots, cured by salt and covered with sand and thoroughly stuck. Stuck so fast that no amount of wiggling made it give. And so I searched for a piece of stick and dug with the stick. My right hand had already gone raw by now and threatened to bleed. I lost track of time in my focus and dug furiously. Hand and stick, hand and stick, wiggle here, tug there, still no give.
And so I called to the girls down to beach to come and help me.
Thus the shell had become my only focus, a symbol of happiness. I dug in relentless pursuit of it, the dig itself a fierce determination not to give up my hope. A struggle that brought blood to my hands and tears to my eyes.
The girls didn’t hear me and I began to get frustrated. Why didn’t they pay attention? The sky was darkening and the fireball to the west had begun a low, dripping, over-ripe mango-sticky descent through the clouds. I called out again and they began to walk ever so slowly to me. It angered me that they weren’t there and didn’t care, that they couldn’t hear my calling out. Didn’t they know how important this was to me? Couldn’t they see me and my gestures and waves saying hurry?
And plain as day I got it. THE POINT. Like a dream that gives such aching clarity to a situation obscured by daylight wakenings I saw. This is the purpose of my pain.
To bring me to call on Him, the Most High. The One who can answer all my questions, cure all my ailments, and dig out all of my shells. And right there I looked up and said to him Father, the girls aren’t going to hear me. They aren’t here where I am right now. And they probably couldn’t help me anyway – I am stronger than they are. Please help me get this shell out.
And so I bent over again and began to dig. It wiggled more and I dug some more. I stepped on one side to turn it loose and dug some more. I took my hands and scooped under the shell with sand cutting into my raw flesh. By this time the girls had strolled over to me. One came and reached down to help as I straightened up.
It came loose in her hands. First try. No struggle – out it popped.
But it was my struggle. There was a reason.
Later at home I took that shell into my bath tub. There it will always stay pink and fresh with constant watering. It will also remind me at least twice a day, at my most naked and exposed moments, that my God is with me in every struggle and will be my armour when I feel exposed.
And so I prayed into my little book. Father, please put that gem and hide it in my heart like that shell. Stick it in there and never let it wiggle free I pray. Please remind me that You are never going to leave me and that You are so much better than anything else I could ever find. Help me remember to call to You first because You are always right here, right now, where I am. Help me remember that when my friends are far away, or when they are up close – it doesn’t matter! They don’t have Your power.
Please also use these struggles of mine, these battles I face, to strengthen the people around me. Help my struggle to allow them to find their own shell loose and ready for them to just pick it up. Take my writing and use it to Your honour and glory I pray.
It seems I knew once how to deal with pain. I knew once how to reconnect to the core of me and commune from that core with the Source of all things good. I am so blessed to be reminded of that knowledge today.
We began in January. Four women met together with their pastor and asked for his support to begin a Bible Study for young adults. It grew from there into the YAG, a movement of people getting to know eachother and themselves in Christ. The study was RELATE, knowing, loving and forgiving the people in your life. It was to be a 5 session study but one session would take two meetings. The sessions were profound and pregnant with meaning, leaving thoughts on how to do this life thing better together bouncing around in us through the week. I recommend this study to everyone – not just young adults. It is an excellent first study for a group and a theme that is relevant to everyone. Throughout the weeks of the study we came to know eachother as a group. We would average 30 people at any giving meeting on a Friday night in The Cave, a warehouse loft we were generously given to use by a couple in our church. We shared very deep hurts and precious victories, updates on our practices of the things we have learned and hurdles that we would have to overcome. Out of this study came a community of people who have begun to live with eachother and share with eachother and love eachother. There were some amazing things that I learned in these sessions that have stayed with me and I pray will stay with me as I grow beyond this step. Right now, in a reflective mood and seeking comfort in the memories of all my God has done for me, I have decided to share a few of these.
- Every person has a predominant need when it comes to relationships – either significance or security.
- Relationships are NOT ABOUT ME. They are not designed to serve me. They are designed to be the place where I am able to be more like Christ. To be patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not conceited, selfless, compassionate, and forgiving we must have someone in our lives with which we are able to practice these Christ-like ways.
- Fear is a big impediment to relationships. But when we turn to the purpose of relationships (above) we can learn to love someone for THEIR sake. Not for ours.
- Relationships are the place where sanctification happens.
- God is the source of all the things we need to make our relationships work. We are invited to “remain in Him”. We are the branches on his vine and without the vine the branches will die… and will destroy the relationships in their life by being drained and withered without the love connection to the vine of the source of all love – God himself.
- “Friends who enjoy soul intimacy never settle for gossip or simple information exchange. Instead they use the data of events as spring-boards for the sharing of feelings, perceptions, values, ideas and opinions.”
- Being loving is more important that being right. Relationship is more important than victory.
- Dealing with conflict there are three ways in which we react – move away, move against, or move towards. Moving towards can be easily confused with moving against – but the purpose is different. Moving against is defensive, self-protective, and offensive. Moving toward involves an open mind and bravery, clear communication, accountability, accommodation, collaboration and compromise.
- The grass is not greener on the other side – it is greener where you water it.
- It is important to search yourself for wrongdoing with humility. There are three BEs to employ as we deal with our own weaknesses. Be aware, Be in tune with the Spirit as it guides you, and Be willing to accept the guidance and instruction of the Spirit so that work can be done in your life.
- Forgiveness IS: Moral. Goodwill. Paradoxical. Beyond duty.
- Forgiveness is NOT: Forgetting or denying. Condoning. Excusing. Condemning. Seeking justice or compensation.
As for me… I learned that I have a lot to learn. And a lot of practicing to do. That is another subject for another post. Another time.