Archive for the ‘IRIS DIARIES’ Category

(The Iris Diaries)

“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.

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

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In the first sermon that Jesus delivered, He said “Blessed are the merciful.” This true story illustrates how we Christians do a lot of damage when we become too smug about our views, and place our doctrine above the souls of desperate people.

(The Iris Diaries)

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)

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

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(From The Iris Diaries)

“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.

 

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

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