Archives for March 2012

Lents I Have Known: 5

I didn’t want to write about this Lent until I was well into it so that I could give an honest appraisal of my efforts. Also, it’s embarrassing.

There are certain things you can confess in public: lying, cheating, stealing, failure in any spiritual discipline. But I am about to publicaly confess something much more damning.

I do not pick up after my dogs.

Louise, I can hear you gasping all the way from Canada. In fact, it was your post on this subject that started needling me. I didn’t do that, and I knew I should. I had excuses, rationalizations.

When Fat Tuesday came, I still hadn’t decided what to give up for Lent. I was on the EFX, listening to an NPR “Science Friday” podcast about the evils of sugar. And I started to think, “I don’t eat desserts, but I could eliminate some sugar in my diet.”

And I heard the voice of God in my spirit: “If you want to do it, do it, but don’t do it for Me.”

Yeah, He knows. I’m someone who started dabbling in anorexia at the age of 6. I have no story of deliverance–only a slow movement in the same direction.

But picking up dog poop for Lent? Really?

Then I remembered an iconic story from Antioch Community Church in Waco. It’s the story of when the pastor, Jimmy Seibert, got serious about following God, and he wanted to go anywhere, do anything. He sought the counsel of an elder who said–wait for it–“Make your bed.” Jimmy wasn’t sure he heard right, but the word of the Lord was “make your bed.” If he couldn’t follow that simple daily discipline, well then, he wasn’t going to go anywhere or do anything.

So, I have been diligently bringing my bags each morning when I walk Polo and Clover. Polo is too dainty to poop anywhere but in her secluded spot in the yard, but Clover does not have a shred of modesty. The first day I forgot to bring the bag and had to go back later to retrieve her deposit. After that, Clover never pooped again.

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Racial Profiling at the Elementary School

Normally I put up a poem on Sundays, but my friend, Christine Scheller, wrote a provocative piece in “Urban Faith” about why more conservative news outlets weren’t covering the Trayvon Martin shooting. I realized that this tragic story reminds me of something that happened several years ago at my children’s elementary school.

All the names have been changed, including a few details, but the facts are the facts.

Mr. Riggs always came early to pick up his daughter, Shakayla, from Forest View Elementary School. He would arrive 30 minutes to an hour before school let out and rest in his pickup until she came out.

I usually got to the school about 10 minutes before school let out, and sometimes Mr. Riggs and I would visit. There was another father, Jack, a stay-at-home dad, who also arrived early, sometime between Mr. Riggs and me, and the three of us would often chat.

Mr. Riggs told me his first name, but I didn’t catch it. I remember that he was in Desert Storm. He was a photographer. He was honorably discharged with PTSD. He and his wife had been married for 20-something years, and in addition to Shakayla, they had one child in middle school and another in high school.

One day when I got to the school, I saw a police car there. We never had police cars at our school. I saw Mr. Riggs in his truck, and I went over to ask him what happened.

Mr. Riggs was crying. Did I mention he was about 6-foot-4 and in great shape?

It took him a few tries to get out the story, but it seems that the lawn maintenance crew for the school — an all-Hispanic crew — had called the police to report Mr. Riggs for “loitering.”

“Would you please tell that officer that I am here every day. Every day!” Mr. Riggs said.

“Of course,” I said.

I started walking to the police car, scared out of my mind. I’d never talked with the police except for the time I was pulled over for speeding at age 18. Here I was, in the middle of a bona fide racial incident. At that moment I was the only person who could vouch for Mr. Riggs.

“Excuse me, officer?” I said, coming up to police car.

The officer rolled down the window. “Yes, ma’am?”

“Hi. My name is Megan Willome. My son and daughter go to school here. I just wanted to say that I know Mr. Riggs — the man in the truck. His daughter, Shakayla, is in my son’s class. He’s here every day. He comes early to wait for her. I don’t know why he comes early. But he doesn’t bother anyone. We talk sometimes.”

The officer thanked me for coming over and said he would make a note of it. He asked me if anyone else could vouch for Mr. Riggs, and I mentioned Jack, who wasn’t there yet but probably would be soon.

And then I wondered if his testimony would count, since he was part-Japanese.

Lents I Have Known: 4

Here’s something I wish I were doing this Lent (so, technically, this is a Lent I wish to know). I wish that I were in Oklahoma City to see Mark Osler and Jeanne Bishop do the Trial of Christ on March 25 at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Jeanne plays Christ’s defender, and Mark serves as Christ’s prosecutor—a role that hurts him to play. This will be the final of five presentations the two of them have done in 2012.

I met Mark when I interviewed him as the 2009 Wacoan of the Year. He is the most remarkable person I’ve ever met, and his work to reform the criminal justice system may be some of the most important being done in the country. He was raised as a Quaker, and those ideas still undergird his beliefs, although he has become an Episcopalian. He has taught at two law schools: one Baptist (Baylor University), and now, a Catholic one (University of St. Thomas).

Some of you may know him from his op-ed pieces for the Huffington Post. Some may read his blog, “Osler’s Razor” at www.oslersrazor.blogspot.com. It’s the first thing I read every morning. The “failed liturgical dancer” part of my bio is his gift to me for co-winning Haiku Friday.

Mark’s book, “Jesus on Death Row: The Trial of Jesus and American Capital Punishment,” was the first I ever bought on my Kindle. He was a federal prosecutor during the Clinton administration, and his book about Jesus’s arrest, trial, and execution is written through the lens of Texas criminal law. The book and the Trial of Christ are interlinked.

Mark is also a great guy. He bought me lunch when he shouldn’t have because it was the kind thing to do, and he forgave me when I screwed up really badly.

During this season of Lent, I urge you to commemorate the passion of Christ in a new way. Read Mark’s book or, if you’re in Oklahoma City, attend the Trial of Christ. You can also see a 56-minute video of the sentencing phase of the trial presented at the University of St. Thomas School of Law on YouTube at http://bit.ly/GDpsoO.

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An angel poem

This is offered for Tweetspeak Poetry’s March theme: angels.
 

ANGEL, FOURTH CLASS

On the hottest day in July two angels

came home with us. Two homeless angels,

sister angels, abandoned on some guy’s ranch.
 

Terrier angels,

with a splash of dachshund and a spit of Jack Russell.

Demanding angels.

“Your puppies are so needy,” the house-sitter said.
 

No, I was the needy one, the one who prayed

like George in the bar: “Father in heaven, I’m not

a praying man, but if you’re up there

and you can hear me, show me the way.”
 

George got Clarence. I got Polo and Clover.

Someone up there dispatched a couple of mismatched angels

nowhere near AS2. More likely, Angel Fourth Class.

Clover’s probably Sixth Class.
 

What kind of an angel eats all your broccoli?

The kind that knows the only way to save you

is to jump right into your swirling river and bark like mad

until you jump in, too.

Lents I Have Known: 3

I can’t even count how many years I tried to give up Diet Coke for Lent. It was at least five. It never worked.

I got seriously addicted to Diet Coke in high school and college. Getting pregnant in my mid-’20s helped to curb my enthusiasm, but I still had to have one a day. If someone offered it at a meeting or a party, I could not turn it down.

Slowly, that changed. I can’t say why. I can’t say when, except that it definitely was not during Lent. Eventually, I found that the only time I really craved the stuff was when I was on my period. I would buy a 12-pack and allow myself to have as many as I wanted. Then I stopped wanting it even then.

I just don’t like it anymore. Maybe I got sick of it. Maybe something was happening during those failed Lents that I don’t understand. But it’s not something I have to give up anymore.

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A poem for my son

The previous poem was for my daughter. I don’t know if my son will like this one because it doesn’t rhyme (“Lil Wayne and Drake’s stuff rhymes, Mom”), but I hope it’ll do.

CROSS-COUNTRY
 

While we ran errands, I thought it was morning

but two-year-old you swore it was afternoon.

I learned then not to argue,

 

not when you said,

“I blow bubbles all the way to the moon,”

even though you blew them straight at the sun.
 

 

An ordinary backyard stick in your hands

became Stick The Great,

brandished at miles of unnamed villains

 

You ran down the hill and up,

all the way to school and back. Two miles —

every single day.

 

A crow swooped down and stole your brand-new glasses.

I said to give up, but you gave chase.

The crow returned your treasure.

 

Contacts now.
 

 

On moonlit nights you run down the road and up

When I come back from running errands I say, “Good morning.”

It’s already afternoon.

Lents I Have Known: 2

Lent is the reason why I sabbath (or at least, attempt to).

Back in 2002, I couldn’t decide what to give up. One of my friends had shared that her family had been observing a sabbath for two years. I wasn’t sure if I could do six entire weeks, so I decided to try it for two—the two weeks before Lent. I figured that if it didn’t work, I could always give up tea.

Well, it did work. It stuck. If you’re doing the math, that was 10 years ago.

I have avoided the controversy of Saturday vs. Sunday by choosing … Wednesday as my Sabbath. It wasn’t taken, so I took it.

When I started, Wednesday was a real church-y day. I attended a Bible study in the morning and a small group at night. I haven’t had either of those things since 2006. I work from home for a monthly magazine, and the middle of the week tends to be slower. I often need to work on weekends, and my kids usually have activities on the weekends. So it works for me.

Few of my sabbaths are perfect. Usually, one a month is great, two are so-so, and one gets trashed (that would be when I’m on deadline).

What I do or don’t do on those rest days varies. I approach each one as a gift. I take extended time for prayer, and I open my Bible to the following Sunday’s readings. I try to keep more quiet than usual. I try really hard not to go to the store. I try to unplug (although I usually fail at that one). When my mom was sick the gift I needed most was to sleep, so I slept. I still need that.

One Wednesday I went to a cross-country meet. On another we drove out of town for a funeral. Next week I may be climbing Enchanted Rock with some friends. Sometimes the right thing to do is not to quibble but to show up.

I started this blog for the purpose of journaling what was happening to me on these weekly pauses. They are so much a part of my life now that I have little to say about them. I don’t blog about brushing my teeth, either. I just do it.

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A happy poem (dang it!)

March is the month in which my daughter was born. Isn’t that nice of God to include a birthday in the same month in which there was a death?

She’s turning 13 this year. But when she was approaching her 10th birthday, she looked through the calendar one morning at breakfast and announced, “Only 70 days ’til my birthday eve!”

If you can’t write poem about that, then you just aren’t trying.

BIRTHDAY EVE
 

Only 70 days ‘til my birthday eve

Yes, I’ve counted it – 70 days.

That’s only two turns of the calendar

‘til my parents erupt in praise.
 

Only 70 days ‘til I get my first card

From my grandma in Timbuktu

She always sends money and writes,

“Dear Honey, I wish I could be with you.”
 

Only 70 days ‘til I open my gifts

Arranged in a birthday tree.

Every aunt, every uncle, even Great Grandpa Norman

Will bring a present for me.
 

Only 70 days ‘til my party starts

With cake and candles and song

Oh my friends will sing, and I will be Queen –

The Birthday Queen – all day long
 

After 70 days, my birthday will pass

And I, avoiding sleep,

Will count the days on my calendar

Till my next birthday eve.