OLIVE TWIST ©2012
My mother recently sent me a beautiful brooch engraved with a picture of the Greek mythological figure Iris, who delivers messages from the gods to mortals.
She was not aware when she gave me this gift that I was already using the name of “Iris” in my fables and letters, but it seemed oddly fitting for the spiritual messenger in these writings.
These are true stories written in the form of fables with a surrealist style. The main character is a lady in lavender named “Iris.” She is a visionary who views the world through spiritual eyes.
Names of the characters are changed as deemed necessary for privacy.
THE IRIS DIARIES: JOURNAL OF A VISIONARY
“With visible breath I am walking.
A voice I am sending as I walk.
In a sacred manner I am walking.
With visible tracks I am walking.
In a sacred manner I walk.”
Iris has rainy blue eyes that cloud over easily. They slant down in the corners from grief, and the weight of injustice on her brow. But the lines of worry are smoothing out since she received the gift. Everything looks different through spiritual eyes.
Beyond this natural realm, Iris has a beautiful home and a loving father and a huge family. And most importantly, she has a dear Companion who abides with her always.
She sees souls all around her glowing like gemstones, and a pure world where they all belong. She sees the path that livens weary feet as it unfolds through the clouds going north, and she will carry as much treasure there as she can.
Poem: “Song of the Sacred Woman” from Black Elk Speaks
A Friend of the Wind
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
Iris follows the wind. She loves the comfort of encircling breezes and her hair being tossed about. The wind whispers in her ear when she is resting in her bed and calls her secret name when it is time to awaken. She loves being like a leaf, with no knowledge of where he will carry her each day. She clutches a stick in her right hand when she walks, and sometimes she uses it as a wand to weave the strands of air into shadowy shapes.
She seems to be a drifter, but Iris is always at work. She inquires of the wind about where to go, and what to do. She is like a flute that he plays in the canyons. Her ears are filled with music, and every day is an adventure on the windblown path.
The woman who loves the wind has many dreams. In one of them, she is wandering down a long misty road in search of a city, and she sees a familiar man by the wayside. She asks him, “Can you tell me the way to the gates of the city?” Without speaking, the man hands her a key. He never gives her directions, as if she already knows the way.
“And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” (John 14:4)
The wind began sending messengers to Iris when she was very young. Wandering artisans always surrounded her, giving her poems and art and stories. One day as she sat in a café filled with smoke and laughter, a man with faded denim pants and a worn plaid shirt approached her. He had a familiar mystical flame about his brow, and his reddish hair was curly and matted.
Iris had been inking a picture of a snake climbing up a tree in her sketchbook when he approached her, pointed at her drawing, and said, “Get rid of that snake.” Then he handed her a piece of dirty folded up paper and went out into the street, as the wind blew open the door. She unfolded the paper and found these words written in blue ballpoint pen:
So long on this road back to the wall,
I’d pray I’d die before I’d fall;
Death wish in a land of hell,
Don’t want to cry, search for the well
That gives to me the truth of truth;
In it’s sweet light (don’t need no proof).
Walking middle ground
I found my song in a silent sound
Where eyes don’t hide behind
Masks that make you laugh when you should have cried,
That let you live when you should have died.
So long on this road but I hear the call,
I see the truth and with it walk tall.
It aint the stand I’m afraid to make,
It’s the illusion the world wants me to take
That sees the light and clouds the truth
With its lack of faith and search for proof.
She could feel soft flowing air and a rustle of wings. There was something comforting and kind about the man.
A mysterious long-haired lady with wintery eyes handed her a poem scribbled on aged brown parchment:
The one who weaves the wind
Stood grey before me.
The woods were dawn-grey
Dripping, soft, and so quiet.
Was catching shadows and mist
For her loom…
A young man wearing a purple tie-dyed shirt gave her a little poem as he passed her one day, and she sensed that protective spirit again:
Love is the vine
To help him find
His home divine.
One breezy morning while she sat upon a squeaky porch in the ghetto, a man with soft green eyes and glasses approached her and offered her a poem:
The flowers open
At thy feet
Wonderful and new
Angel of light
How many dawns
Have I drunk from your cup?
The affection that the Iris evoked from strangers was disconcerting. Why did poets pop up like flowers wherever she went? She felt that someone was calling for her and wanted to be her friend.
A young man handed her this poem on a small piece of white paper with only his name “Sunrise” on the bottom:
The princess in purple
Carrying her guitar…
She shares her music
With all who’ll listen
Her gentle ways could be an inspiration to all
If only they would take time.
Even her ring is purple.
I’ve seen her on the streets
I’ve seen her in the parks
Always ready to share her music
And her heart…
Iris knew that people were drawn to her, but she wondered why all of the writings were spiritual in some way. Did people see something that she could not see at the time?
Now she can see how the wind loved her long before she knew him. He had been loyal to her in a sorrowful land, and had filled her life with meaning.
One morning she talked to a man in the donut shop where she worked. He wore glasses and had curly blonde hair and a beard. She told him of her dream of meeting Christ in an elevator. A few days later he visited and as she was cleaning the counter, she found a story written which he tucked under his napkin:
Immediately and noisily the doors opened, a mild shock far exceeded by the presence of a man, dressed in a loose white robe, staring directly at her out of the elevator—so directly as to imply he knew in advance where she would be standing…And so it was, and the surrounding city with it, corners dissolving into a blizzardy whiteness, glowing brilliant for a moment and then fading, edgeless as the voice of this prophet, into gray, into black, into liquid- no light, no sound, no scent, no feel, no taste- only absence, vacancy, and peace: only the consciousness of a smile, the smile of God.
 “Back to the Wall” by Jude
 “The Weaver of the Wind” by Margaret
 By Kelly
 From Michael
 By Sunrise
 By Al
I asked a nurse with cold white sterile hands scribbling on a chart to direct me to Opal’s room. Before walking in, my eyes scanned the name on the brushed aluminum nameplate with apprehension. I stepped in quietly, wondering what to say to her.
Opal was dying. I knew it as soon as I looked at the old woman. A sense of urgency rattled me like unexpected thunder. It was dreadfully cold in the room.
Opal was lying thin and pale on her bed. Her face was tight like pale yellow parchment and her whole body seemed to be laboring and exhausted under the cold white sheets. Tubes were in her nose and needles in her bruised trembling arms. Her lips and eyelids were purple, and the oxygen machine breathed like a slow steam train in a dark tunnel. Her fearful eyes opened like hollow caves when she heard me walk in. It was difficult even to look at her in such agony.
I sat down in the stiff plastic chair next to the bed and drew my shawl around my shoulders. Focusing on the woman’s frightened face, I introduced myself and asked Opal how she was feeling. The poor woman began to speak between heavy breaths, with the disturbing rhythm of the oxygen in the background:
“I have emphysema and I don’t expect to live long. I smoked for most of my life, and that is why I am ill. I have been in this hospital bed for several months, and I am scared of dying. I am worried about my soul, and I have been asking how I can find peace with God. I rarely have a visitor since I have been here.”
(Opal has to pause for deep breaths.) “My brother is a Mormon and he came to see me once, and I asked him what I needed to do about my soul. He said that I would have to do missionary service for the church. I told him that I was too sick to do anything, and he seemed very sorry that he couldn’t do anything for me.”
“I also asked a priest who came down the hall one day to come and talk to me. He came in and sprinkled some holy water on my forehead and made the sign of the cross over me, and told me that I was saved. But I knew I wasn’t, because I didn’t feel any different when he left me. I cried and cried.” (I touched her hand and asked her to rest for a moment, since speaking is exhausting for her. She pauses for a few minutes then continues.)
“The other day, a group from some church came in to visit my roommate and pray with her. I called out to them to ask them what I needed to do to be saved, and they said I would have to be baptized. I explained that I cannot be immersed in water, because I would die if I did. (Opal coughs deeply.) A man in the group apologized to me, saying that there was nothing they could do for me, and then they continued visiting my roommate and praying with her. I felt so terrible and hopeless, and I have been so scared.”
Tears came to my eyes as the old woman was talking. I had learned about Opal from the man who told her she would have to be baptized. I worked with him at the office downtown. He always wore polo shirts and tortoise-edged glasses and spoke in a heated voice.
I had hoped to find Opal before it was too late. I told her that the thief hanging on the cross next to Jesus did not have time for any rituals. He simply asked Christ to remember him when He returned to His Kingdom, and Christ had promised “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” I explained that faith is all God requires, and asked her if she would like to pray. Opal was very eager to, and we prayed quietly together. Opal asked God to forgive her for everything that she had done wrong, and asked if she could be His child.
I asked Opal if she would like to have some Bible verses read to her, and she said yes. We talked for a long time and read scriptures together, and the old woman was noticeably comforted. Her face looked more restful and calm. I offered to come regularly and visit and study the Bible with her, and Opal was very pleased. We did not get to be friends for very long.
After a few weeks, I went to see Opal, and the nurses said that she could no longer talk or communicate because she had lost oxygen to her brain. I asked to go into the room with her anyway, and the nurses consented. I had heard that people can still hear others even after they can’t speak anymore, so I stood near Opal’s bed for awhile, twisting the corners of my shawl in my fingers and dabbing my tears. The oxygen was puffing loudly inside the translucent tent where Opal lay serenely. I spoke gently and reminded her that she was a child of God, and that Jesus had promised to never forsake those who love Him. I left Opal alone in the cloudy tabernacle with God.
The next time I went to see Opal, the nurses said she couldn’t visit and that they couldn’t give any details, because I wasn’t a member of the family. I knew then that she had left this world, and I was glad that her suffering had ended. Opal is breathing easier now.
“To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.“(Revelation 2:17)
Wisdom from a Wanderer
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”(Hebrews 13:2)
I walked in to have coffee at McDonald’s and saw a very unusual young man stroll in. He appeared to be homeless, but more youthful than other wanderers that I had seen. A stuffed pink heart hung from a string on his backpack. Small teddy bears clung to his shoelaces and a large seashell dangled from a cord around his waist. Hearts were painted on the outer edges on his black-rimmed glasses.
I overheard him asking someone for money for food, and heard another man speaking to him. I handed him a dollar. He waited in line to get breakfast, and then sat in a corner with his tray. I paid for my coffee and sat down on the other side of the dining area, but I wanted to approach the young man. I was apprehensive because he looked so different, but I finally walked over and said hello, and asked him how he was doing. He nervously handed me a small photo of himself, which I found rather odd, and I sat down to visit. He told me that his name was Luke.
His fingernails were painted black with pink hearts on the index fingers, so whenever he pointed at anything, I saw them. He began to show me a scrapbook that he was keeping with cutout photos and clippings and handwritten notes. I began to turn the pages and saw poems scribbled here and there and pieces of torn paper and small paintings. I felt as if I was reading into his soul. His artistic drive was apparent, and I was happy as he began to talk.
“There are so many negative things in the world,” he said. “I cut out articles from newspapers and magazines that represent evil things, and then I write or draw something that offers a possible solution.” He took a pair of scissors and a glue stick from his pocket and quickly cut out a picture from the paper, then dabbed some glue on it and stuck it in one of his sketchbooks.
“I am amazed how God always provides for me. I scarcely think of something I need before I receive it. The other night as I fell asleep in the park, I thought of how nice it would be to have a bicycle. When I woke up, there was a bike just laying there with no one around. People should trust God more than they do.”
As we talked a man came over and handed him a few dollars. After the man left, Luke turned to me and said, “Could you use some of this money?”
“No thank you,” I said.
Luke leaned his chin on his hand thoughtfully, and said, “If we receive things, we should also give, because we must keep the cycle of grace flowing. We should not cut off the grace by our selfishness.”
Then he began to tell me that people often seem offended by his presence and act as if they despise him for no reason. “I am kind to everyone and I’m no threat, but people act like they hate me for no reason, just for existing. People have trouble with anyone who is free and is not ensnared by the world.”
“That is because when we love others and are not attached to the worldly system, we will be despised like Jesus was,” I replied. “The Devil can’t stand to lose control of anyone.”
“You’re very advanced,” said the young man.
I mentioned to him that I had written my story and many stories about others in my manuscripts, but they are not published. He suddenly said, “But they will be. I assure you.”
“May I write about you too?” I inquired.
“Of course,” he answered.
He stroked his thick black hair for a moment and stated, “I have a word for you. You are a midwife and a healer. You have the ability to nurture children until they are ready to survive on their own.” I was quite surprised and said, “That’s odd. Someone told me before that I am a spiritual mother who can labor and birth children into the kingdom of God, and nurture them. You are my confirmation.”
“Wow, that’s heavy” he said.
“Luke, you have a great mind and a pure heart,” I said. “Is your mother like you?”
“My mother is very intelligent and is very easy to talk to. She is a midwife.” I perceived that I reminded him of his mother. I told him it was encouraging to see a young man speak well of his mother.
“I try in my own way to offset some of the evil and darkness around me,” he replied. “Most people my age talk about the terrible things happening in their families and in the world, but they don’t try to fix anything. These little hearts I wear are just symbols of the love I am trying to spread.
“A huge demonic invasion occurred in the seventies and this is why young people have it worse than ever before. Some people made deals with Satan before they were even born and have already lost their souls. Some people are fallen angels, and many of them are in our government.”
I answered, “We are on the verge of a spiritual awakening and you young people will lead us into it, because your minds are still pure and they have not been polluted by money and ambition. You still see God in terms of Spirit instead of in terms of an institution.”
We discussed how the sacred things of God have been ruined by capitalism and greed. “Jesus did not teach capitalism”, Luke said.
“You are right”, I answered. “I have to leave now, but this has been wonderful.” We grasped hands tightly before parting.
Where the Wild Things Were: The House Next Door
Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.”(Hosea 2:1)
There is a house nearby that seems to draw strange renters. Once we had “The Shadow” lurking there for a few months. For a long time, he was never seen except as a silhouette through the curtains or a dark figure on his patio with no face.
Then one day a police car pulled up and handcuffed him and took him to jail. About two months later, he returned. No one knows how his bills had been paid while he was away. But he stepped out of a friend’s car in a jailbird outfit. He ran into the house hurriedly and about thirty minutes later, he came out to the front yard with a cell phone. He seemed to be calling everyone he knew, saying things like, “Yeah, man, I just have to try to stay out of trouble now.”
Soon, lovely silk-haired blonde women in expensive cars began to show up regularly, and one of them finally moved in. Then one day my son heard the woman calling the police excitedly on her cell phone. The cops came and took the man away again. While he was gone, the woman brought huge metal storage devices and packed them full of stuff, and a giant u-haul showed up and she disappeared. The guy got out again from jail, and soon he moved out and we never saw him again.
Then we got some new neighbors. The parents were deaf and the children were three wild teenage guys. We could always hear them yelling, and they roamed around the neighborhood in packs like jackals. Everyone could see their underwear because their shorts were too large. One of them had a worn out dirty blonde Mohawk which hung limply around the shaved part of his head and a small indecipherable tattoo was on his scalp. It was apparent that he was the ringleader and his loud mouth frothed constantly with cruel sarcasm and vulgarity. I learned later that he was the eldest son.
A gang of young people partied in the house constantly and the police were there almost every night. The cops seemed to know all of their names, but nobody ever was arrested. We would find dead birds lying around their front yard because they would go out and shoot them down with their BB guns. The police were called to investigate but no one could put a stop to it.
You could see people in clusters gossiping in the neighborhood, more than usual during this time. It was endless entertainment for them. I was troubled in my spirit because I always think of people’s souls hidden beneath their outward appearance.
One day the youngest of the boys came to my door in a hurry, needing to borrow the phone. I could see that he was tense and very aware of his family’s notoriety in the neighborhood. He expected to see cold cruel eyes looking back at him, but instead he saw the gentle expression of a silver-haired lady wearing a lavender dress and silver sandals.
“Can I borrow your phone just for a second?” he asked nervously.
“Yes, have a seat there at the counter. Would you like a can of Sprite?” He was startled, and seemed unnerved.
“Well yeah, thanks” he replied, and placed his phone call.
Then he popped open the soda can and lingered for awhile at the counter and began to talk about a lot of things. “My name is Freddie, I guess it goes without saying that my family has a lot of problems. My three brothers are always in and out of jail and juvenile detention, but I’ve never been there. My parents act like they expect me to be the same way, but that’s not what I want. I want to be different, and have a better life than this. Sometimes I get really mad at my parents because they don’t believe me, and they don’t give me a chance to prove it. I want to graduate from high school and go to college.”
“Well, you just have to be strong and believe in yourself and things will work out in time,” I said. “I know your situation has to be very hard for you. If there is anything that I can do to help, let me know. And come by to visit my sons sometime, okay? My youngest is about your age.”
I had been hearing Freddie’s deaf mother crying and wailing out loud in the middle of the night, and I wished I could comfort her somehow. I didn’t know who was upsetting her, or if she was aware of how loud she was. Once when I went to my car in the morning, I saw her in the front yard, and her face appeared like someone who had never seen a happy day in her life. It was worn and lined and full of pain. I prayed that night for her, and wrote a message for her inside a pretty card.
I went to my neighbor’s house the next day, and Freddie came to the door. I asked him to use sign language to tell his mother that I just wanted to give her a letter. The woman looked suspiciously at me and squinted as if coming out of dark cave and trying to see clearly. I could sense that she thought she was in some kind of trouble, or that her sons had done something bad. She seemed awkward and confused, as Freddie read the card and made hand signs to his mother. The note simply said: “I am your neighbor and I want to be your friend. If you ever are in need of anything, please let me know.” The woman nodded hesitantly, and Freddie thanked me. I returned home.
After that, I never heard the woman crying at night again. What did it mean? I didn’t know, but I was glad. I thought that maybe whoever was mistreating her had heard that someone was concerned.
A few days later, I needed some yard work done, and I inquired about Freddie and his brothers. They all came to my yard, and I showed them what to do and brought out some lemonade. They spent all afternoon in the heat moving rocks out of the front yard and raking. I stood in my kitchen window and heard one of the brothers say, “This is the best day ever. We’re making some money, and having a good time too.” I laughed quietly.
One of my neighbors approached me the next day and asked me why I would let those crazy boys work in my yard. I said I thought they needed something constructive to do with their time.
Soon after that, I needed my lawn mowed, and I noticed Freddie’s deaf father in his yard mowing. He had a bald shiny head and a clean white shirt that showed off his muscular chest and arms. He reminded me of Mister Clean. I approached him with hand signals to find out if I could pay him to do my yard after his. He took paper and a pencil from his jeans pocket and we jotted notes to each other, and agreed to a price for my lawn to be mowed.
After that, the man always did my lawn whenever he did his own. The mother stopped crying. Freddie always greeted me, and his brothers still acted like wild animals, but I knew that everything good takes time and patience.I had been wilder than any of them once, and people had put up with me.
One day, I was getting out of my car with a paper bag of groceries, and the deaf man was on my step motioning for me to come to his house. With squeals, he started towards his door. I set the bag down on my steps and followed the man. The whole family was sitting together inside the shady screened porch.
Freddie told me that they had all been evicted, and that they wanted to thank me. I asked where they would go, and Freddie said they didn’t have a place, so they would be in a hotel room for awhile. They had not been given sufficient time to make better plans, but the neighbors had complained so much that they had to go.
Their faces were pitiful and sad. My heart was filled with pain for their family, and the next morning they were all gone. I continue to pray that their lives will become happier someday and that Freddie will have a chance at success.
“Visit the orphans and widows in their affliction…” (James 1:27)
A cute little woman sat in her wheelchair with a little pink crocheted cap covering her thin silver hair. Her wrinkles branched out across her face in delicate designs, and her blue eyes were bleak and icy like her native country of Finland. “Hello Linda”, I said. Linda was a bit shy at first and neither of us knew what to say. Linda’s English was a bit broken, but very clear, and she began to point out some of the Scandinavian art on her walls, and the photo of her deceased husband, and the beautiful grandfather clock on the wall, which was wound up with an old brass key. Our first visit was a bit awkward, but we agreed to spend time together more often, and I asked if I could address her as “Grandma”. The old woman agreed with a shy smile.
I had wanted to adopt a grandma so I visited the care home across the street and spoke with the volunteer coordinator. There were cages with tropical birds in the sunny room with huge windows that day, and a Jamaican woman named Vida came to see me. She told me that she knew of a woman named Linda from Finland who was very lonely. After we talked awhile, I signed some volunteer papers.
Grandma missed her home and gardens. When her family members took her from her home, they told her it was only for a short time but it had been years now. She did not know what became of her home, and she said she was very old and tired of living. Many mornings, she said she was sorry that she had survived through the night.
She read many magazines and books and sometimes children’s books with pictures she could look at. She watched TV shows about world news and church programs. She seemed very intelligent. But she often forgot how old she was. One day she was ninety and the next day she was ninety-five.
My sons went with me sometimes and Linda loved it when we called her “Grandma”. My youngest son was Grandma’s favorite, and he made origami birds and flowers and other artistic things for her to decorate her room with. She would always say, “He is so clever”.
Sometimes I would bring her little tea cookies and ginger thins and chocolate. Grandma said the doctors could never get over how she could eat so much and never get fat and how she seemed to have no real health problems aside from arthritis and getting more forgetful and childish as time went on.
One day I arrived and the old woman was flustered, and asked for help in finding her address book which she had lost. She seemed very upset so I began to open drawers and cupboards looking for it, and found an old address book with a floral design on the cover. Grandma practically grabbed it with joy when she saw it and began to look through it with a reflective expression. She was looking for the name of someone in particular, and she asked me to look it up for her. I can’t recall who it was, but I saw that all of the names had been crossed out. I realized that Grandma had put an “X” through the addresses of all her friends and loved ones as they died. The address book was full of dead people.
Grandma deeply missed Finland where she had lived as a child. Tears would well up in her eyes when she talked of it. She complained about the Florida heat, and missing the wintery climate where she came from.
She loved to say things in Finnish, and to try to teach me a few phrases. My mother had a friend named Eeva Blauuw who was Finnish, and I asked my mother if the lady might be willing to write to Grandma. The old woman was so delighted when she started receiving letters in Finnish.
One Christmas, I gave Grandma a beautiful red sweater with pine trees and pine cones and winter motifs on it. She was very proud of it and wouldn’t take it off for a long time. The nurses told me they were trying to get her to wear something else, but she just wouldn’t take it off.
Once I gave her a big white teddy bear made out of an old chenille bedspread. When I offered it to her, Grandma cried with wide eyes, “Oh, I couldn’t!” Her hands were making anxious grasping motions as she said it, contradicting her words. Suddenly her hands shot out and grabbed the bear then she quickly placed it on her lap and rested her chin on its head contentedly. As we talked Grandma began to stroke the bear and cuddle it, and laid it on her bed and covered it up. Then she uncovered it and set it in the chair across from her wheelchair, and it seemed that she could not take her eyes off of it. I asked her what she would name it and she said shyly that she didn’t know.
“What about ‘Snow Bear’?” I asked.
“Oh I don’t know…” said Grandma thoughtfully. “I think I’ll call him ‘Boyfriend.’” I realized that the bear had become a companion in the old woman’s mind, and that it would soften her loneliness.
One day I came into the room to visit, and found Grandma sitting on one end of her bed with Boyfriend on the other end, and she had little Scandinavian tea cookies spread out on the bed with little napkins as if they were having a party. When she saw me coming, she looked down at her hands with embarrassment and she said, “I am like a child in many ways. You know that.” I smiled and said, “Yes, I know, and that’s fine.”
As I continued to visit Grandma, the old woman seemed to talk more and more in Finnish and less and less in English. “Bilingual aphasia” can cause elderly people to completely forget one language that they have known and revert back to their native tongue. At first, I would correct her when she switched to Finnish, but after awhile I stopped correcting her and just nodded my head as though I understood when I really didn’t. It wasn’t important that I understood everything. It was more important for the old woman to be able to relax and talk because she was so lonely.
Due to a new job, I found that I did not have the time to visit her as often. When I did come, she kept forgetting me and spoke mostly in Finnish, so then I stopped visiting for awhile. After a few weeks had passed, I received a letter in the mail. It was from Grandma, and the handwriting was messy and in Finnish, but it made me sorry that I had not been visiting.
I was deeply touched that Grandma had taken the time with her arthritic hands to try to write to me. I knew then that I had underestimated Grandma’s mental ability to remember me, and that I had meant more than I realized. I decided to go and visit her again.
Sadly, Grandma had died when I returned to visit her, and I worried that I might have caused her more distress and loneliness. I was apprehensive to have Grandma’s last letter translated, because it might increase my sadness to know what the old woman was saying. I’ll bet “Boyfriend” knew all of her innermost thoughts and feelings. If only I could have talked to him.
“The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word the one who is weary.”(Isaiah 50:4)
I met a young woman named Amber Fox at McDonald’s one morning. She wore a beautiful plum tie-dyed Woodstock sweatshirt that drew my attention. Her thick auburn hair was cut over her ears and above the neckline of her shirt, and she was very shapely and slim with dark blue jeans and sporty nylon sandals. Her eyes were large and green, and freckles dotted her cheeks. Her voice was strong with some sort of New England accent.
For some reason, we began almost immediately to talk about God and Amber said she had a hard time with churches, because she always felt so dirty compared to everyone else, and she would end up just going for food. “I don’t think people in church are damaged enough for me” she said, stroking her hair nervously with her fingers. “They seem so perfect and they treat me like I’m possessed or something.”
“I’ve been damaged a lot too,” I said. “But thankfully, Christ doesn’t look upon us in the way that many church people do. Just think about the kinds of people he hung around with.I was reading yesterday about the woman who had been bleeding for years, until she touched the robe of Jesus as He walked by. Jesus felt power go out of Him, and stopped in His tracks, and asked who had touched Him. When I first read it, I thought Jesus was angry with the woman for touching Him without permission. But then it came clear to me that He knew how damaged she was, how she had been a reject from the temple for many years, and He didn’t want her to disappear into the crowd without talking with her. He just wanted to take time and minister to all of her needs before she left.”
Amber’s eyes began to fill with tears and I touched her arm. She suddenly blurted out that she had lost count of how many abortions she had had, but she remembered at least seven. Her hands were shaking from deep anguish and the doorway of her soul flung wide open. After all of the condescension she had experienced from religious people, I marveled that she was willing to make herself so open and vulnerable. She somehow knew that I would not judge her.
“Amber, God loves brokenness in people, and the scriptures say that He never turns away a humble spirit. When someone is broken, God can get inside and start repairing the issues of the heart. I love mosaics, and think they are especially beautiful because they are made of broken pieces.” As Amber wiped away tears with her hands, she said, “This is so weird, because I have been making mosaics lately.”
I read from John 14, where Jesus says to let not our hearts be troubled, because He is going to prepare a place for us, so that we can be with Him. I talked with her about the Holy Ghost that teaches us concerning all things, and Amber asked with surprise, “You mean that you can have a direct connection?” “Yes,” I replied, and Amber was amazed by this.
We prayed together, and I encouraged her to keep on seeking a closer walk with God and His Spirit until she finds her peace, and that it would be as clear as a cloudless day. Amber was only passing through town that day, so I knew that I would never see her again. But I often wonder about her and how she is doing.
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)
I had seen him before. On the way into McDonald’s he had approached my son and asked him for a hamburger to eat. With some hesitation, I had bought him a burger and fries and sent my son to his table outside to deliver it to him.
“Why don’t you take it to him, Mom?” he asked me.
“Because I feel uncomfortable about it” I said. My son carried the brown tray to the man and came back inside. He said he overheard a man walk by and call him “Catfish”.
But on this day, Catfish came inside and wandered in a large loop around the restaurant without ordering any food at the counter. As he passed me, I handed him a dollar. He wobbled to a stop and looked at me with fierce squinting blue eyes, and he almost fell forward. I realized he was drunk and I felt terribly naïve. “It must be destiny!” he bellowed, tucking his straw-like hair under his ball cap. He swerved to the left and staggered toward the counter, when I noticed he was digging in his jean pockets for change. I remembered that the cheapest item on the menu was one dollar, and he would need change for tax, so I stood up to hand him one more dollar. I didn’t know what else to do, because he would not have been able to eat otherwise.
After ordering a sandwich of some kind, he plopped on the chair at the table nearest to me and took off the wrapper. With a voice like Yosemite Sam, he leaned toward my table and yelled “What’s yer name?”
“Iris,” I replied softly.
“I’m Reverend Catfish,” he growled much too loudly.
“Nice to meet you, Catfish.”
“Ah said Rev-er-end Catfish! From Meridian, Miss-iss-ipp-i. I’ve married people out on them boats and everythang.”
“Really?” I asked sheepishly.
“Er you married?” he asked in a low growl with a grin on his face.
“Yes,” I answered firmly.
“Darn! All of the good ‘uns are taken” he shouted, snapping his hairy fingers.
“What nationality er you?” he bellowed.
“Irish and Cherokee,” I replied.
“Wull, we have a lot in common! I’m the same thang- Arrish and Cher-o-kee!” He punched his chest with one burly fist.
I noticed a tall man with glasses getting up from the booth he was sitting in and moving to a table closer to me. I knew he was trying to keep an eye on me, and he was watching the situation. I was grateful for this.
“Well I know all o’ my parts is workin’ on me, and all o’ yer parts is workin’, or you wouldn’t be married,” he said laughing boisterously. I looked down at my coffee cup, and he got up to get something from the counter.
“Hey James!” he bellowed to a stocky black man behind the counter.
“Yo, Catfish, what’s up?” asked the worker calmly.
“Ah’m talkin’ to a beautiful woman! What er you doin’?” he said with a loud slurring sound. He staggered back with some packets of catsup.
“Do you have any children?” I asked.
He looked into my face intensely with a mischievous expression and growled, “Yer lookin’ at a hound dog! Ah’ve got nine dawters and five gran-dawters! I’ve brought fourteen bee-utiful women into this world!”
The man who had moved to a closer table got up and walked by slowly, glaring at Catfish as he went, but the drunken man did not seem to notice. Suddenly Catfish moved his chair next to me and his shoulder touched mine, and he smiled, and I shot up from my chair ever so politely, saying “Have a great day. It was nice meeting you.”
“Ah like you!” he rumbled.
I quickly stepped to the trash can to throw some napkins in, and he was waving for me to come close. “I wanna tell you sumthin.” He curled his finger and smiled flirtatiously, and I told him I was in a hurry.
He shouted, “You tell yer husban’ that if he aint good to you, ah’m gonna be the next one in line!” I shook my head and laughed and bolted out of there.
My son had a hearty laugh when I told him the story, then he advised me to stay away from there for awhile until Catfish disappeared. He reminded me that my style of ministry does not work with everyone.
A KEY AND A RING
“And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.” Hosea 2:19
A lady with silver hair dropped her lilac-colored slippers beside her bed, and crawled under the lavender chenille bedspread. She dreamed that she was traveling on a familiar path with a group of hikers. There was a deep sense of peace as they all walked together and talked with soft voices. The grass and trees were lush and green, and they came to a brook with pebbles and rocks in it.
The lady was slower than the other hikers and afraid that her feet might slip. The guide stopped everyone and came back to where she was struggling along. She recognized him from another dream! He held out his hand and walked with her through the water to the other side, and she felt the strength of his arms as he held her up.
She asked him, “Are we still headed north?” “Yes”, he said, “sometimes it may not look like it, because the road winds around at times, but you can rest assured that we are still headed the right way.”
Then the leader addressed the group, “Some people are going to be passing us in a moment. Just ignore them. Don’t listen to anything they tell you.”
Just then, a strange crowd drifted by. They were flat and fluttered in the breeze as if they were cut out of paper. Their faces were very odd and evil in appearance. They were headed the opposite direction, and laughed as they passed the hikers, saying, “What’s wrong with you guys? You’re heading the wrong direction. Can’t you see that? How stupid can you be?” They kept laughing wickedly, and the lady was glad when they had passed by. Everyone trusted the guide and whatever he said, and there was a beautiful sense of love and unity among the travelers.
The lady woke up with a familiar feeling of peace around her. She had often visited this world of warmth and brightness in her dreams, and felt that she belonged in these idyllic forests and meadows with soft pastel skies and dew sparkling on the flowers.
Sometimes a beautiful fox would appear, and she would run like a child laughing out loud as she chased it. In her recurring dreams she was young and strong, and her heart would ring with joy as she ran.
One night, she dreamed that she was at a beautiful wedding banquet and she recognized a man that she knew. He had on exquisitely lovely garments when she saw him, made of unearthly looking fabrics in rich hues.
She also dreamed once that the stones in her rings were all being removed and replaced with new stones. She saw the most incredible gems she had ever seen, and she was told that she could pick anything that she wanted.
Once she dreamed she had been serving the familiar man, when he suddenly made her sit down and he massaged her feet, and asked her how she was doing. She was astonished by this act of humility, because she only wanted to serve him. He gave her a diamond ring that had been glowing on his own right hand, and light was streaming from the stone in golden threads. He said that he would only give the most beautiful gems to his daughter or his bride.
The lady woke up shivering with joy and peace, and tears sparkled in her eyes. She loved this man more than life itself. In a previous dream, she had asked him the way to the gates of the city, and he had handed her a key without giving directions, as if she already knew how to get there.
Now she possesses two priceless gifts- a key and a ring.
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” John 14:1-4
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