Tuesday, November 29, 2011

...happy birthday to us!

The FIRST Four Seasons of Abiding

Dear Readers,
My scribe and I are celebrating our first anniversary. The first post was November 30, 2010. In honor of this occasion, I’ve offered to fill in as guest blogger and give her the day off. She’s using the time to look through pictures of hair-do's following an unfortunate hair-don't style session. Frankly, I hope she finds a good one soon. I can’t get through to her until her mind clears. And the moaning is getting old.
One year and forty-two blog posts have passed with only a few hitches. Celeste was a bit irregular in June and July...more than usual, if you get my meaning. 

But she did get married to Bill

and move.

One must make allowances from time to time.

I admit that, in the beginning, I had my doubts. She was none to keen on public exposure. And her start/finish record wasn’t the best in the world. But we seemed a good match in all other ways, so I proposed. She accepted. For better or worse. In sickness and in health. For richer or poorer. The rest is history. Archived. She's looser now and seems to get the message...

In every moment, choose 
to do the next right thing
to think the next right thought
to speak the next right words
to practice the right silence
And to leave the results to God.

We’re both pleased as punch that you’ve joined us this year. The messages, emails, and comments are most appreciated. As our friend Mary said last night, the “word of mouse” is heard world-wide these days. You’ve brought diversity to the dialog. My scribe wrote these words in her journal: “I am grateful for the intersections, sweet moments of grace. This collision of worlds, this erosion of old patterns and recognition of new ones, could not have been mapped, only lived.” Not too bad without any guidance from me.
Perhaps this is the best part of our little blog. It IS a living entity, a conversation in the cyber-hood. I told you once before what our friend Bill (another Bill) wrote last year. But I like his world-view so much I want to tell you again:
As I travel all over the world to places as wealthy as Monaco or as poor as rural India, I find one recurring theme irrespective of religion, culture, education level or standard of living. Just as a shake of the head means “No” anywhere on the planet, people simply want to live in peace...to provide for and raise their families, to enjoy social interactions.  It’s the same everywhere.  Only the crazies want to destroy others.  Only the desperate turn to violence to make a statement.  Almost everywhere that there is tolerance, there is peace.”
To my scribe, Celeste, Happy Birthday to us! To all of you, our friends and ether-neighbors, please come back. We wish you peace, love and light.

Yours truly,

A. Blogspot

Sunday, November 27, 2011

...advent-ure awaits

Advent. A walk in the wilderness. A time to wait. To acknowledge darkness. To hear the words of Aidan Matthews: God comes to us disguised as weekdays. To adapt them, as my friend, Carolynn, did: God comes to us disguised as weak days.
In this “I don’t have time for the pain” world, Advent calls for patience.  Trust me. I do not go willingly into this good state. Age and experience foist it upon me. Thank you, Father Time. Even if you do have to clobber me with your sickle to get my attention. 
I cannot consider Advent without thinking of Joe Elmore. The Reverend Joe Elmore, that is. Methodist. Wonderful. Wise. Humble. The “whole” kind of holy, not pious. Given to laughter and tears. Fallible (he would insist on this at the beginning of the list so I must insert it somewhere). Purveyor of Grace. I love the story of his first appointment as an ordained minister. Sent to a small country church in Alabama, he found himself in foreign territory. The congregation had ideas about everything, and this season was no exception: Go straight to Christmas. Joe said that he had never felt so alone as he did that first Sunday of what-would-have-otherwise-been Advent as the members stood and sang “Joy to the World.” He longed to hear “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” A proper gestation before birth. The whole journey, not just the fairy-tale that has sadly become an end to itself.
Admittedly, I like to DVR, to move at a rapid pace through commercials to the bits I want to watch. But my life works better when I don’t choose pieces of it and fast-forward through the rest. Like that wise sage, Garth Brooks, wrote, I am glad I didn’t miss the dance. Otherwise, I would’ve missed the rest. Advent is a good time to look at the steps I’ve taken that led me to today. If I have greater peace, thank you very much for all that has gone before and I will keep going. If I do not have greater peace, thank you very much for all that has gone before and I will keep going. 

Today, dear Joe,  I am thinking of you. And want to thank you for taking me to those places I would not have otherwise visited:

My insides. What a relief to unstuff the hidey-holes. To let go and not hoard...just do my part each day and go to sleep in peace. To awaken to the lightness of being that spiritual de-cluttering brings. To let this move into my environment. To KNOW that mercy and grace are the way.

The AIDS house for infants born infected with the HIV virus. This place was filled with precious little ones rocked by all and any who would come. And the location had to be anonymous. Because of the fearful...unaware of a more insidious infection that threatened their very souls. When I rocked those children, the god of what other people think lost his hold on me.

Grace. Your calling, Joe. To go beyond legalism to the land of the truly alive.  To live in Grace. Unearned. Undeserved. To pass Grace on to others. Unearned. Underserved. And, in this, to discover abiding joy.

The Bible. Not “just the facts, ma’am” but the essential Truth found in the wisdom of the ages. To look not for a checklist - “tick these off and avoid Hell” - but for guardrails that protect and enhance this journey. Both mine and the journey of others I encounter. To tell our own stories ...honest, real, unflinching...and rest in the truth of them.

Joe, you have been steadfast. You have known abiding joy and deep pain. You are a master wordsmith who lives the message. Though often frustrated by technology, you have embraced - while bemoaning - this tool of your outreach.  And you have, at every turn, revealed the dichotomy of truth: how we are at once imperfect, yet perfectly made. Because it is the “just as I am” in each of us that allows intersections.

My friend, you are willing to walk in darkness with others. And we all love you for this. I met you in my wilderness. You listened and persevered. What would have remained scars and stumbling blocks are now gift. Indeed, all is gift, as our mutual friend, Dr. John Claypool, wrote.

You will chafe at these words. Will not want the spotlight. But this is not praise. Just gratitude. You managed to be my pastor and "a regular Joe." Because you dropped your mask, I was able to shed mine. So, on this first Sunday of Advent, I wish for you "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"...and send you love.


Oh, the comfort —
the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person —
having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
but pouring them all right out,
just as they are,
chaff and grain together;
certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
keep what is worth keeping,
and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
Dinah Craik

Saturday, November 19, 2011

...the journeys we would never choose

Ruin near The Burren in Ireland, 2008

The long lonely walk passed through unrelenting brightness, 
Around remnants of recollection, 
Over shards of broken dreams, 
And all within cried to be crushed. 
But the walls held:
Held old hurts, 
Held laughter, 
Held ghosts of hope that died some time before...
For the life of me, I cannot remember when.
Between birth and death one small dash carved in stone, 
Between loss and renewal a clock ticking slowly. 
Each day a Holy Saturday, 
Living the questions in a land of unknowing
Aged, fermented, poured out, emptied. 
But in the darkness illusion died. 
And with this death, dawn lit an empty tomb.
All that was unholy led me to the gift not sought.

I have resisted this story. Time has re-framed the events but the truth set me free. Messages arrive in the oddest packages. This morning, a single tweet from The New York Times: an article entitled “An Effort, Years in the Making, To Capture the Miracle”.  Within this article a reference to Franz Wright’s poem, “The Only Animal.”  Click here for the text of the article if you are interested. A link to the poem can be found later in the post.
I wrote the words below the photo of the castle ruin in a journal in 2008. They reflect my state following several events that occurred over the course of a year: the death of my mother from Alzheimer’s, the death of my husband, and the loss of my home in a storm three months after his death.  I thought I understood grieving....one day at a time, recognizing and mourning each separate loss. But life is a continuum...at times a Frankenthaler that bleeds...at other moments, a jumbled no-beginning, no-end Pollack. A year passed before I knew what I had not grieved. I had lost the context of my life in twelve months. When I wanted to cry, I felt guilty. My losses didn’t measure up to those of others. How do you say “But the insurance didn’t cover” and not feel shabby? The road to discovery and recovery is circuitous. Please let my stumbles be your wisdom.  
Here’s the story of that morning when mourning began. Before I continue, I must add that my husband long before his death gave me his blessing to tell his story If I thought another might benefit. I pray that a healing intersection can be found here.
The nurse described the events prior to his death, saying finally, "Your husband was a very stubborn man." With that, she handed me his bag and left the room. No hospice moment as with my dad and mom . . . just "good riddance and don't let the door hit you on the rear on the way out." I gripped the bed rail for a while, looked at this man with whom I had lived for over thirty years. In some ways I felt as if I were looking at a stranger, that my husband had died some time before.
Standing by the bed, I stared down at his face, lips bloodied from his struggle, and touched his cheek with my hand. So many caresses over the years, so many tender moments, and now nothing. Just his cold, unshaven face and chilly, unyielding fingers . . . no precious memories, no tears, nothing but relief that his battle was over. I have never known such silence.
The nurse, nerves raw from the battle John fought that night, saw me through a filtered light. Later, much later, I wondered if abuse, mental illness, alcoholism or addiction had touched her life. [ It had.] In the pre-dawn hours in CICU. though, I felt only anger, abandonment, hurt, anything but compassion. Only later, much later, would I pray for that nurse.
Gripping John's small suitcase, I turned away and walked from the room. Leaving CICU, I saw no one as I began a long, lonely walk. The waiting area in the lobby was empty at 5:30 a.m., so I sat down and made the first of many phone calls. I was motionless when he approached me. Dressed in work khakis and a knit shirt, the black man said, "Ma'am, something bad has happened, hasn't it?" I wasn't crying but I suppose my shock was evident by the absence of gestures, movement, expression. Standing up, I said quietly, "My husband just died." He took my hand and said that he would pray for me, that God would be with me. I remember thinking that he had kind eyes. He asked if I needed anything. I placed my other hand on top of his and thanked him. We embraced briefly and I felt God's arms around me. Then I sat back down. When I described him to my physician and another nurse, no one knew who he was. I attach no mystery to this, only the precious humility of one man. How great are the anonymous acts that leave no calling card.
The day of the memorial service was surreal. I remember the shock of entering the sanctuary, surprised to find it filled with friends and coworkers. The minister, Joe Elmore, a friend who cared deeply for John, spoke movingly and directly, addressing John's depression and struggles while at the same time revealing the man who was more than a disease. Jim Hooper, his best friend, gave the eulogy, his voice breaking at times. The service was full of quiet emotion, simultaneously comforting and heart-breaking. Insignificant moments coexisted with the substantive. Late in the service as we stood singing the congregational hymn, I realized that my purse was still hanging on my shoulder but I didn't care. At some point in the service, John's eldest brother suffered a stroke. Unnoticed until we stood to leave, he was helped downstairs and transported to the nearest hospital. As we left the sanctuary, one man asked me, “Do you think John was saved?” There is a reason for everything...had the purse been hanging freely in my hand, at that moment I might have swung it.
Here is a link to Wright’s poem. He drank, drugged and visited mental hospitals. And came to believe in grace and healing.  He and his father have the distinction of being the only father/son duo to win Pulitzer Prizes in the same category. 
If someone you love died as a result of addiction, mental illness, suicide, I ache with you. I pray that all would choose life but know how hard that choice can be. I knew that my children had lost too much for me to harm myself. Many times, though, I thought, “They are grown and I am of no use to them. If I don’t wake up tomorrow, it will be fine with me.”  But the universe to whom I cried did not take me. I know that my late husband has kept many people sober. He taught others the humility of not judging. Starting with me. We are all finite beings. I cannot claim credit for the perseverance I have any more than I can judge the mental illness that haunted John. I am content. I laugh and cry and go to bed and get up and embrace the sunrise. And I celebrate the sunsets.
Life doesn't open like a Hallmark card. Few of us live in a Norman Rockwell painting. Pain doesn't evaporate. But, if we face it - unmedicated, honestly - it is distilled: the alchemy of truth.This Thanksgiving, we will have empty places at our tables. In their absence, those we forever love are present.  And so are those we've never met, never even liked. We are all God's children. 
I frequently revisit the words of the Rev. McLean in A River Runs Through It...
Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives 
look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: 
We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? 
For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. 
Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give
 or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. 
And so it those we live with - and should know - who elude us. 
But we can still love them...
we can love completely without complete understanding.

Friday, November 18, 2011

...why the desk won't be painted for Thanksgiving


Look out the upstairs front window and check for clouds. 
Repeat process at back window. 
If sunny, clip clothes to line. 
Turn on the kettle and put tea bag in cup.
Reach for the biscuit tin. 
Run to back door as rain arrives unannounced. 
Unclip clothes quickly. 
Hang them in front of windows. 
Hang them in the hall. 
Hang them in the kitchen. 
Drink tea, eat an extra biscuit because rain has stopped. 
Repeat next Monday.

We'll get to the laundry part in a minute. First things first. I have a head cold. For the most part all I want to do is lie under the down duvet. I would sleep but the hacking and sneezing are winning. So I’m blogging. It helps to keep my mind off the pity party I’m dying to throw. A pox on “three days coming, three days with you, three days leaving.” Adrienne and Scott are arriving in two days and I’m on the path to wellness. I may be delirious but I’m sure that I’m feeling better.  Either way, this makes me happy. If mainlining Vitamin C and swilling Airborne dissolved in orange juice works, then nominate me for the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Delirium. Definitely delirium.

In my world, I feel that certain rules should apply when one is cold-ridden. A box of White Cheddar Cheez-its followed by a box of Wedding Cookies - washed down with ice cold caffeine-free diet Coke - would be the definitive cure. Thank heavens, I don’t have any in the condo. My diet du jour is chicken soup and hot tea. I once liked Barry’s Tea. But frankly, my dears, I’m beginning to loathe the sight of the box.

Two loads of laundry that I separated when I rousted myself out of bed to get more Vitamin C are staring at me. So far, neither has moved. When I brew the next cup of tea, I’ll load the machine.Then repeat this for the second load when I heat the last cup of broth.  At some point, I’m going to take a shower. Before Bill gets home. My hair now looks as if I stuck my head in the Cuisinart. 

I can’t complain about the laundry. Wash day in Ireland was a far cry from my usual routine. For that matter, “wash DAY” was - for decades - an unattainable dream. Laundry was an ongoing event, with late night rush jobs for school jeans suddenly “discovered” in the walk-in attic (don’t ask). And I confess that on more than one occasion I forgot a load in the dryer and re-washed rather than iron everything. This may be illegal in conservation-conscious California. Shhhhhh.
In Kinsale, a clothes line, a drying rack and hangers replaced technology. A limited wardrobe also simplified the process. Two pairs of jeans, tees, turtlenecks, lingerie, and a pair of indestructible black pants cycled around the glass door of that front-loader more times than the pack lapped the Indy 500 speedway.
As my Kinsale laundry instructions indicate, weather was the only complicating factor. Jane and I watched the BBC weather report. The Republic of Ireland was omitted. We watched ITV Wales. The Republic of Ireland was omitted. We asked several locals where to get a decent forecast. They said - to a single person - the same thing:
“I just stick my head out the front door.”
So each morning, I swung open the bedroom window, stuck my head out as far as possible and called out to Jane, “This is a one [or two or three] undershirt day.” We were confident in our system. Until a Sister from the convent warned us to watch out for the east wind. 
“When does this usually occur?” we inquired.
She answered quickly, “You’ll know.”

Today I do not have to face the elements or walk more than twenty paces to wash the dregs of my contamination. But recalling those days in that lovely Irish village is a nice thought at the moment. At any moment.

And one more memory has returned. When I joined Adrienne in Venice during her study-abroad semester, I was over-joyed. I slept on the plane and arrived ready to hit the ground running. Except for the headache that resulted from my neck flopping over while sleeping on the plane. I had forgotten to pack Advil so I headed toward the Grand Canal where, surely, one pharmacy would be open. Not a one. Only the kiosks were doing business on this most holy day. I stopped and inquired with my best broken Italian (twenty three words, most of which referred to food). "Per favore, farmacia, where?"

“Ah, signora, no, no farmacia, uh, ....”, he searched for his English words, and finished with, “up.”

“Per favore, when?”

“Ah, tre, quattro. Maybe cinque?” [translation: 3 p.m., 4 p.m., perhaps 5 p.m.]

Back at the B&B, the host asked me if I had found my medicine. I told her what the kiosk owner said and she laughed. “Oh, no, no. No open today. Italian men, they like to give you hope.”

She must have also wished me the same because she didn’t tell me that Easter Monday is also a holiday. But Venice trumps a headache just as good memories and this lovely spot diminishes a cold. 

By the way, take a look at washday in Burano, Italy.  We need more color here.  They elevate laundry to art.

Good health is returning in time for the joy of family and good food. But there will be no chicken broth or hot tea on the T-Day table. And that desk in the bedroom isn’t going to get painted either. Get over it, Martha Stewart.

Bill just called and told me to get off the computer and rest. I seem to have a low boredom threshold that is inversely proportional to my viral state. When I explained that I am writing this lying down, he explained what this is doing to my neck. And offered to do the laundry. 
And, just so you can relax, kiddoes, everything will be cloroxed, decontaminated and ready for you Sunday!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

...for the patience of a seed

The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.  Robert Frost
Photo of Moss Creek, Birmingham, AL 2010

I am in the process of burning photos to dvd’s.  Yes, they are backed up on an external drive as well as online. But Triple-Redundancy is my middle name.  Especially where pictures are concerned. A photo transports me to a moment. In that moment lies the intersection of other memories...of dreams that never came to pass...of lives lost or forever altered...of great wondrous moments beyond my imagination. 
Next week we will celebrate Thanksgiving. The menus are planned. I’m one of the lucky ones. Surrounded from the beginning by family. Imperfect, all of us. But we loved as best we could. I cherish memories of home-cooked feasts and walks in the woods...to recover from those meals. And I recall my childhood dreams. But I have discarded the illusion that life unfolds according to my plans.
Someone has altered the script. 
My lines have been changed,
I thought I was writing this play.  Madeleine L'Engle
The plot has changed. Many times. I’ve survived. Others haven’t. Old dreams died but new ones have risen from the depths. And these, too, will morph. I will tend some and let others wither. Some will be removed from me. Life is capricious and out of my control. This is good. I am not qualified to run the universe. 
This Thanksgiving I celebrate hope.

"...trust in creation which is made fresh daily and doesn't suffer in translation. This God does not work in especially mysterious ways. The sun here rises and sets at six exactly. A caterpillar becomes a butterfly. A bird raises its brood in the forest and a greenheart tree will grow only from a greenheart seed. He brings drought sometimes followed by torrential rains; and if these things aren't always what I had in mind, they aren't my punishment either. They're rewards, let's say, for the patience of a seed."  Barbara Kingsolver

Here's wishing you a blessed season of gratitude and the patience of a seed. Hope you enjoy this beautiful song by George Winston:

Friday, November 11, 2011

...11.11.11: in remembrance, in hope

In Flanders fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row,
   that mark our place; and in the sky the larks, still bravely singing, fly
scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the Dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn,
saw sunset glow, loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders fields.

(excerpt from the poem "In Flanders Fields" by Lt. Col. John McCrae)

Poppies illustration adapted from a photo by Dirk Beauregard

Today, in Great Britain, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Canada, poppies are worn on Remembrance Day. From government officials to newscasters to the general populace, 
the symbol is seen everywhere.

Yesterday I read a poem by the late Israeli poet, Amichai, called “The Diameter of the Bomb”. 

The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters 
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle of pain and time, 
two hospitals are scattered and one graveyard. 
But the young woman who was buried in the city she came from, at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers, enlarges the circle considerably, and the solitary man mourning her death at the distant shores of a country far across the sea includes the entire world in the circle. 
And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans that reaches up to the throne of God and beyond, making a circle with no end and no God.

An ever-widening circle. The ripple effect. A butterfly flaps its wings in Beijing. The tipping point. A million bad choices later, war. The poem builds to reveal the ugliest circle. Death, mutilation, torture, the senseless slaughter of innocents...beyond solitude to utter loneliness. No great goodness left in the world. The bad choices seemed harmless once, even proper, before the holocaust...born out of a need for control, the fear of change, free-floating distrust, prejudice, different values and opinions. And they mount - one at a time, then a hundred, then a thousand -  until all decency is lost and truth distorted. Since reading the poem, my thoughts have focused on the circle, the symbol of the infinite, a metaphor often found in literature. I re-read my entries in my e-journal.

And therein lies the whole of man's plight. 
Human time does not turn in a circle; it runs ahead in a straight line. 
That is why man cannot be happy: 
happiness is the longing for repetition.  
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable LIghtness of Being

Ever spent an afternoon with a toddler? Watched him build a Lego tower, then knock it down and do it all again? Nine million times? Or listened to your granddaughter sing the alphabet song? Nine million and one times? The old adage - “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.’ - is part of the truth. But perhaps another aspect is that repetition reminds all of us that we have learned and gives us hope that we can learn more. A straight line, on the other hand, moves us away from all that is familiar. We are marching toward the unknown. 

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, 
a part limited in time and space. 
He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. 
This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. 
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.  
Albert Einstein

Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, 
man will not himself find peace. 
Albert Schweitzer

How sad that our circles are often miniscule. We build exclusive compounds - sometimes in our minds, sometimes with brick and mortar and razor wire - to guard “our kind”. But the comfort they offer is only a false, temporary illusion. At some point these walls become our jail where we are bound to others by fear and hate only. 

I thought about one of my favorite Sufi poems, 
which says that God long ago drew a circle in the sand 
exactly around the spot where you are standing right now. 
I was never not coming here.
This was never not going to happen. 
Elizabeth Gilbert

I have stood in many spots now. When I view my journey, all my small circles are strung together like a great, infinite strand of gemstones. My gems. In the beginning, though, I could feel only the fire and pressure of creation, not the beauty. I could understand only the words of Robert Heinlein: When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout. I am grateful for the erosion of illusion but not proud...I am still under de-construction. The war within must be faced before I can begin to understand the war without. 

Most of us memorized “In Flanders Fields” in fifth or sixth grade. A powerful juxtaposition of beauty and death: profuse mounds of poppies springing up in the fresh-turned soil between graves of  fallen soldiers. The poem was written by Lt. Col. John McCrae, a Canadian physician, the day after he witnessed the death of his twenty-nine year old friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer.* The cold statistics of war mount and the impact is minimized. Steven Spielberg addressed this powerfully in the film, Schindler’s List. We first see a small girl in a red coat running in the ghetto. Later, when the dead - huge piles of bodies - are being carted off, the only bit of color in the black and white moment is the red coat of the dead child. What was inconceivable becomes gut-wrenching, real. Let us remember names when we can. The Vietnam Memorial, the roles of the dead that are found in sundry places, not only honor the dead but touch the living. 
And it’s not enough to think of declared wars but of all who are killed by hatred and prejudice. By disease, physical and mental. To remember those who walk among us, scars visible and invisible. I do not like sharing my birthday with the Oklahoma City bombing. But those who died once lived, live still in the hearts of those who love them and on the anniversary I honor them. And in Birmingham, it is not enough to say that four girls died in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963. Remember their names: Cynthia Wesler, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins and Denise McNair. They were full of life and vigor that morning. Banish the killers to anonymity perhaps but not these young girls.
I’ve read and re-read “The Circumference of the Bomb.” I have not lived in the Middle East and do not have the poet’s perspective of the senseless killings that occur with random, horrific regularity in his homeland. But I cannot accept the last sentence. When we are enveloped in darkness, surrounded by evil, good seems at best a distant wish, at worst, absent. 
I believe, though, when our circle is in that dark place, great goodness is present with us. 


Fifteen men were executed in the prison yard at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, Ireland, after the 1916 uprising: the last, close to death, brought through a gate on a stretcher, so badly wounded that he had to be tied to a chair to be shot. Whatever ideology, religion, or cause is cited, the bottom line is that the human capacity to kill, to torture, to subdue, pales in comparison to the power to love, to comfort, to empower. My culpability: have I told anyone this? Have I shared that I broke, that willpower and self-reliance failed, that good deeds pointed only to myself? That I came to know that I am loved just as I am? 

Wars are not started by demagogues or stoked by ideologies alone. One person, then two, add a few more, become complacent. Delayed gratification - a loser’s choice in this winner-takes-all world - falls by the wayside. Little by little, lines blur: souls sullied by the quick fix, too in need of approval to make the hard choice, lulled by empty promises, point fingers, then mix another drink: the road to oblivion so inviting . . . until the crossroads, where stands one ancient cross. The choice? Through it or around it. “It is done.” Already.  
Journal Entry 2009

Jesus wept.
John 11:35