Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

English: hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com Good_ki...

Some of my happiest Christmas memories are of times spent Christmas caroling with the Quakers.  I remember one chilly December night when a group of Friends gathered at the meetinghouse in San Jose, California before getting bundled up  in coats and scarves and mittens, then we all stepped out  to sing carols to people in several neighborhoods.

We walked merrily down the sidewalk house-to-house and stopped in front of each doorstep to sing, and many people opened their doors gratefully to listen and smile. I remember the blinking Christmas lights in the windows and the cold breeze on my cheeks and the glowing lamp posts along our path. It was invigorating and peaceful as we went a-wassailing.  In our group of carolers, we took turns letting people pick out their favorite songs.  I always loved “Good King Wenceslas” and “Here We Come A-Wassailing” and “I Saw Three Ships.”

After we had caroled outside for some time, we drove to a nearby care home for the elderly and walked through the hallways. We joined up in a social hall full of residents and continued to sing happily.

One elderly gentleman wearing his pajamas and sitting in a wheelchair seemed especially moved by the music and soon wheeled over to a kind Quaker man named Larry Wolfe, who without hesitation invited the man to join us for a Christmas party at the home of another Quaker fellow.  The resident asked Larry to approach a nurse, who helped sign him out for the evening, and Larry brought him to our post-caroling celebration.  The old man was teary-eyed with joy for the entire evening eating holiday food and sipping spiced cider while someone played the piano and friends laughed and talked.  Because I was familiar with the compassion of Larry, I’m sure it was not the last time he and the old man spent together.

I wonder if caroling is illegal by now, like so many of our former religious freedoms. I have tried for several years now to find a church that still practices the tradition of Christmas caroling in public, and have even tried unsuccessfully to coordinate a group of carolers. People make all kinds of excuses such as they can’t sing in tune or they’re too busy with their family or whatever. But the truth is that we are so self-absorbed these days, trapped in our computers and technology and our own individual versions of the American dream, that we have no time for such things anymore.

Whenever I cut on the TV and see carolers on a Christmas special, I long for those days when real people did things together face-to-face and not through digital devices such as the one I am communicating through right now.

I wish we could all coordinate non-digital days to encourage more real human socialization, so that everything meaningful in our culture is not sacrificed upon the altar of technology.

Peace and Grace,

Sister Olive

~♥~

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Jesus, the Strong Man

I was moved by this post today, especially the image of Christ as the strong man who carried us all on His shoulders…It makes me imagine Him flexing His muscles under the burden of our sins.

Shalom,

Sister Olive

~♥~

Writing Sisters

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And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . John 1:14

We love these words from C.S. Lewis:

The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation.  They say that God became Man.  Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. . . .

In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity . . . down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created.

But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches…

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One of my all-time favorite albums is Late for the Sky by Jackson Browne, and this song really “speaks to my condition” as the Quakers used to say.

Here are a few lines from it:

I’m just one or two years and a couple of changes behind you
In my lessons at love’s pain and heartache school
Where if you feel too free and you need something to remind you
There’s this loneliness springing up from your life
Like a fountain from a pool…

Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light
You’ve known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight
You’ve had to struggle, you’ve had to fight
To keep understanding and compassion in sight
You could be laughing at me, you’ve got the right
But you go on smiling so clear and so bright

-Jackson Browne

 

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So, daughter, inasmuch as it concerns you so closely to set forth on this devout journey under good guidance, do you pray most earnestly to God to supply you with a guide after His Own Heart, and never doubt but that He will grant you one who is wise and faithful, even should He send you an angel from Heaven…

The simple style of this bishop (Saint Francis de Sales) really speaks to me… This book on the devout life is a series of his letters to a married woman who earnestly desires to grow closer to God…

Ponder Jacob’s ladder:–it is a true picture of the devout life…Consider, too, who they are who trod this ladder; men with angels’ hearts, or angels with human forms. They are not youthful, but they seem to be so by reason of their vigour and spiritual activity. They have wings wherewith to fly, and attain to God in holy prayer, but they have likewise feet wherewith to tread in human paths…

Here is one of my favorite passages from Chapter 3 where the writer explains that where God is concerned, no one “falls through the cracks” if the heart is sincere and humble…

A different exercise of devotion is required of each–the noble, the artisan, the servant, the prince, the maiden and the wife; and furthermore such practice must be modified according to the strength, the calling, and the duties of each individual…

No indeed, my child, the devotion which is true hinders nothing, but on the contrary it perfects everything; and that which runs counter to the rightful vocation of any one is, you may be sure, a spurious devotion. Aristotle says that the bee sucks honey from flowers without damaging them, leaving them as whole and fresh as it found them;–but true devotion does better still, for it not only hinders no manner of vocation or duty, but, contrariwise, it adorns and beautifies all.

~♥~

St. Francis de Sales, the gentleman saint and ...

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“And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.”  Genesis 32:25

An angel simply touched Jacob’s thigh and dislocated it. Perhaps some angel touched our brows and dislocated our memory of why we had to come here and what we have to do.  Thomas Merton implied that this earth is Purgatory in his book Seven Storey Mountain. I sometimes think that we are fallen angels sent to Earth to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”

The scriptures say a lot about what becomes of us after death, and what we are to do while in our bodies, but very little is said about why we came to this planet in the first place.  God told Jeremiah “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (1:5)  The birth of the Messiah was predicted in the TaNaKh.  But I am pretty sure that most of us were not appointed to any sort of greatness.

I remember the seventies when my friends and I would smoke pot and drop LSD and sit around for hours asking questions like, “Why are we here?” and “Where did we come from?”

I don’t believe that all of us are simply the result of a big bang between two people.  Our flesh came about that way, but our mind and our spirit were designed for something higher. We are spiritual beings living in mortal bodies. No two of us are the same, and we all have this amazing potential to commune with the Divine.

Even Christ said very little about why each of us was born in the first place. He said we have to be born again of the Spirit.  He said “He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:26).  He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  He talked about the rich man and Lazarus going to separate places after death.  But He never told us why we came here, to a certain country and a certain time period and certain parents.  He never said it was all an illusion or a dream.  I find it somewhat surprising that none of His disciples asked Him about this.  They addressed so many subjects, but not that one.

I read somewhere that the rich are here to help the poor, and poor are here to save the rich. I also have read that good and evil angels are constantly involved in the affairs of men, and often wear disguises.  For me, one of the most terrifying stories in the Bible is of Nebuchadnezzar being spied upon by watcher angels because of his arrogance and his judgment finally being pronounced. For the whole story, read Daniel chapter 4, but here are a few verses:

I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; He cried aloud, and said thus…Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him. This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men…The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.

I wonder why this doesn’t happen more often…we certainly have enough evil dictators. It is interesting to me that in the Bible many of the military and political figures are fallen angels. Ezekiel writes about the King of Tyrus “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God (28:13).”  Daniel reports about the Prince of Persia who battled with a messenger angel for twenty-one days before being defeated by the archangel Michael. (10:13)

People laugh at me sometimes for believing “this stuff” but I find it much more imaginative to be an atheist. I felt terribly sorry for Hunter S. Thompson, even though he was a fantastic writer.  Take this statement of his:

“I have never seen much point in getting heavy with stupid people or Jesus freaks, just as long as they don’t bother me. In a world as weird and cruel as this one we have made for ourselves, I figure anybody who can find peace and personal happiness without ripping off somebody else deserves to be left alone. They will not inherit the earth, but then neither will I.”

How would he know about my inheritance, anyway?  Only the child knows what the father has prepared for him or her.  It’s a personal affair.  That’s why the scriptures say:

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.  (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Should I believe the promises of Jesus or or the ramblings of Hunter S. Thompson?  That’s a tough one. Let me ponder that. Everyone who met or knew Jesus found Him to be faultless. He loved everybody, even the people that no one else understood or liked. (He would have loved Hunter S. Thompson.)

Jesus walked on water. He fed five thousand men (and their families) with five loaves of bread and seven fish. He ordered a storm on the ocean to calm down and it did. He healed people of all kinds of diseases. He raised Lazarus and others from the dead. After His crucifixion, He raised His own body from the tomb, and met His disciples down by the sea. He cooked fish for them after His resurrection! He wasn’t a ghost! His whole body went into heaven.

I think I’ll believe Jesus. I can’t see what there is to dislike about Him. I understand if people don’t approve of His so-called followers, but that’s a whole different matter.

There are lots of things I don’t know, but I know I am in good hands with Jesus, and I will understand it all someday.

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (I Timothy 3:16)

~♥~

Work Cited:

Hunter S. Thompson, The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time

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And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”  Luke 18:19

I am haunted by my past, ashamed of my numerous failures, and constantly battling my self-serving nature.  I am afflicted with a disease called the human condition.  Christians refer to this as sin, the force that prevents our communion with a perfect God.

I can’t help but wonder:  If Jesus didn’t view Himself as good, then how do well-seasoned Christians tend to become so self-righteous?

I married a very religious Quaker baker when I was twenty-four who brought me to church to straighten me out.  He said that it took “the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon” to put up with me.  I can attest to the fact that it’s true.  But he wasn’t perfect either, although he thought he was. I tried to fit in by changing the way I dressed, the way I talked, the way I behaved.  I became fluent in the Christianese language.  But no matter where I went or how well I performed, I was still there…darn!

The truth is that I felt much more comfortable with my hippie friends than I’ve ever felt in any church. And church people have been very good to me. I just happen to enjoy the company of people who are really really real. I would rather attend a “love-in” or “rap session” any day over a church potluck.  (Without the dope and sex.)  Because among my friends, I could play an out-of-tune guitar and sing Donovan songs and recite T.S. Eliot and dance like a confused child until I almost fell down, and I still felt accepted and loved.

I’ll bet Jesus and those sinners had some great rap sessions when He was on Earth.  He accepted and loved people with all of their strange ways, and that is why I still adore Him even when His followers are disappointing.

I know I’m half-crazy, but could there be a problem with the church too? As Leonard Cohen asserts, “One of us cannot be wrong.”

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English: A door in Morocco in 2010.

When I first read this poem, I felt that the author was a kindred spirit, because I have always tried to stay near the door too.  I try not to drive anyone away, or send them in the wrong direction…Friends, pray for me.

Peace & Grace, “Sister Olive”

~♥~

I stay near the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out.
The door is the most important door in the world –
It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
There’s no use my going way inside, and staying there,
When so many are still outside, and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where a door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men,
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it –
So I stay near the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for men to find that door – the door to God.
The most important thing any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands,
And put it on the latch – the latch that only clicks
And opens to the man’s own touch.
Men die outside that door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter –
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live, on the other side of it – because they have found it.
Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him –
So I stay near the door.

Go in, great saints, go all the way in –
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics –
It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, or sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms,
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in,
Sometimes venture a little farther;
But my place seems closer to the opening –
So I stay near the door.

There is another reason why I stay there.
Some people get part way in and become afraid
Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them;
For God is so very great, and asks all of us.
And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia.
And want to get out. “Let me out!” they cry.
And the people way inside only terrify them more.
Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled
For the old life, they have seen too much;
Once taste God, and nothing but God will do any more.
Somebody must be watching for the frightened
Who seek to sneak out just where they came in,
To tell them how much better it is inside.

The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving–preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door,
But would like to run away. So for them too,
I stay near the door.

I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
The people who have not yet even found the door,
Or the people who want to run away again from God.
You can go in too deeply, and stay too long,
And forget the people outside the door.
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear Him, and know He is there,
But not so far from men as not to hear them,
And remember they are there, too.
Where? Outside the door –
Thousands of them, millions of them.
But – more important for me –
One of them, two of them, ten of them,
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
For those, I shall stay by the door and wait
For those who seek it.
“I had rather be a door-keeper…”
So I stay near the door.

By the Reverend Samuel Moor Shoemaker, Jr.

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~♥~

The lady doesn’t get to know Rodney very well because he starts coming to discipleship meetings only a short time before he is released.  He has a great sense of humor and lightens up the mood whenever he comes in. Iris would never have known that he had experienced so much neglect and abuse if he had not told her, because he is always so jovial.  It is always a delight to see him make the suicidal and emotionally disturbed youth laugh and play.

Like many other young men in the detention center, he has been committing crimes since the death of a family member that he deeply loved. In this case it was his stepfather, the only one who took time with him and taught him anything.

He describes how the family was all gathered at the hospital, and Rodney stepped out to use the restroom.  He came back and his “daddy” had died.  Rodney says he went crazy in the room, yelling and throwing things, and security had to take him away.  He says that he could never forget that moment because if he had known, he would have kissed his daddy on the cheek and told him he loved him first.  But he can never go back, and it hurts him deeply.

Yet Rodney is very cheerful and always expresses his gratitude to God.

He said one thing to Iris that she can never forget.

He said, “I believe that if you gave me an empty cup and asked me to drink from it, I would drink it because I know that the Holy Ghost would be in the cup and it would help me.”   The lady took out her lavender handkerchief when he said it and dabbed her eyes.  She still gets misty-eyed when she thinks of the kind of trust that he had in her.

~♥~

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This message really fed my spirit today, and I wanted to pass the nourishment on to my readers…

Milk & Honey

By: St. Silvanus the Athonite

The Lord greatly loves the repenting sinner and mercifully presses him to His bosom: “Where were you, My child? I was waiting a long time for you.” The Lord calls all to Himself with the voice of the Gospel, and his voice is heard in all the world: “Come to me, my sheep. I created you, and I love you. My love for you brought Me to earth, and I suffered all things for the sake of your salvation, and I want you all to know my love, and to say, like the apostles on Tabor: Lord, it is good for us to be with You.”

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Simply Orthodox ☦ – In order to enter Paradise….

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John 11:35

~♥~

It’s the shortest verse in the Bible, often memorized by children looking for an easy passage to recite in Sunday School.  But those two words are full of meaning for me.  The writer put them together tightly in a separate verse to make the reader stop and take notice, to make an impression.

I’ve read many beautiful scriptures and sayings over the years, but I can’t say that I’ve ever read that “Buddha wept” or “Krishna wept” or “Zoroaster wept.”  I admire all of these people and their ideas, but for me it’s never been the same as Jesus.  I’ve seen the depictions of Krishna with royal blue skin sitting serenely in the lotus blossom, and the golden statues of Buddha so wise and noble.

But I’ve never read of mobs plotting to kill them. I’ve never noticed any of them appearing anguished, wounded, or sweating even one drop of blood or tears. Jesus is the only one who ever seemed genuinely human to me, with no jewels or rich garments or palaces or chariots.

If that isn’t enough, He is the only one who proved His divinity to me with miracles, the greatest of which was overcoming death itself by rising after three days in the grave.  He fought an amazing and painful battle on Earth.

He is my own personal Braveheart- the only One that ever could connect with me through my own personal pain, minister to my homeless soul or shed a tear with me.  I cannot speak for others, but for myself, there is no one like Jesus.  Because Jesus wept.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Statur - St. Peter's Chu...

~♥~

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“The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds…” Isaiah 1:5-6

I have read many blogs that have struck a chord with me and I have admired them very much, but one woman has opened my eyes to a world that no one should ever have to experience.

Stella Marr began visiting my blog recently, so I decided to visit hers and see what she was writing about.  I was shocked and horrified by her personal stories.  Stella is a former prostitute who writes about her ordeal with anguish and bravery, and her voice is immensely important in this time when our world has become so hypersexual. This subject resonates with me because I was molested and misused by numerous men during my childhood years.

One of Stella’s most poignant writings is entitled “An Ex-Hooker’s Letter to Her Younger Self.”  Please read it here:  http://secretlifeofamanhattancallgirl.wordpress.com/

Jesus always stood up for women who were victimized in society and He restored their dignity. As a Christian, I feel that we should encourage and comfort people like Stella who are using their voices to try to put an end to great evils, in this case the horror of sex trafficking. Because she has endured so much injustice and is brave enough to come forward with her story to try to help others, I would like to nominate her for the HUG (Hope Unites Globally) Award.

I admire you, Stella!  I pray that you will find comfort and peace in Christ and that you will hear His voice calling your name…

“Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…I am gentle and humble at heart and you shall find rest for your souls.”  Matthew 11:28

~♥~

Here are the guidelines for the award: http://ahopefortoday.com/2012/01/14/hope-unites-globally-hug-award-guidelines/

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(The Iris Diaries)

“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.

(Name was changed for this woman’s privacy)

~♥~

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QUESTIONS?

Don’t go ’round confused– if you have anything you wish to ask me about my faith, my life, or my statements, please ask me.  I would like to have more dialogue with my readers, and to clarify anything that may be unclear.

If I am able to answer your question, I will do so in the most conscientious manner possible. Be aware that I don’t haggle over non-essential doctrine or anything that might create unnecessary controversy or division in the Body of Christ. We need more unity, and less fragmentation.

Also, it goes without saying-  I don’t know everything…don’t ask me the stuff your two-year old is asking you, like “How did God get here in the first place?” and “How come everything isn’t perfect?”  I might try to answer and make a real fool out of myself, but you wouldn’t want that, now would you?

So now that we’ve cleared up the ground rules, I am going to start a page entitled “Dear Olive,” so you can submit your inquiries using the “comment” link.

Peace Be With You,

Sister Olive

~♥~

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(The Iris Diaries)

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 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.

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

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Be careful how you cast your crowns- somebody could get hurt!

Milk & Honey

By: Elder Paisius the Athonite

A Christian must not be fanatic; he must have love for and be sensitive towards all people. Those who inconsiderately toss out comments, even if they are true, can cause harm.

I once met a theologian who was extremely pious, but who had the habit of speaking to the (secular) people around him in a very blunt manner; his method penetrated so deeply that it shook them very severely. He told me once: “During a gathering, I said such and such a thing to a lady.” But the way that he said it, crushed her. “Look”, I said to him, “you may be tossing golden crowns studded with diamonds to other people, but the way that you throw them can smash heads, not only the sensitive ones, but the sound ones also.”

Let’s not stone our fellow-man in a so-called “Christian manner.” The person who…

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