Winging it with INK

I credit several people with my tattoo. First Katae, who made the whole thing happen and gave me a forever birthday gift. Next my husband, who puts up with this manifestation of a midlife crisis. My daughter Tory, whose trip to the parlor (do they call it that anymore?) got us talking about matching tattoos. My son’s swim coach: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And finally, my dear friend who I never thought would get a tattoo, got one. I’m such a follower.

In college, Katae found her love of ink and piercings. When she and her roomies got bored, they wouldn’t go to a movie or play a violent game of spoons like my generation. Nooooo. The way to combat boredom in the new millennium is to whimsically get permanent marks scribbled onto your flesh.

Katae

What could be more special than mother-daughter matching tattoos? Our ink is in the same place and consists of the same words—each with our own flair. My “flair” caused the tattoo artist much consternation and at one point he sighed and said, “I’m just going to wing it.”

I be like THIS IS A PERMANENT THING, DUDE. NO WINGS. GET THE PROCESS SHEET, THE RECIPE, THE POINT-BY-POINT DIRECTIONS. HAVEN’T YOU EVER HEARD OF MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE? But I kept my mouth shut because I was already becoming one of those people. You know, the one who shows up empty-handed and empty-minded, without a printed copy of exactly what she wants, the one who has only a hazy idea and let’s-spend-all-day-figuring-out-how-to-pirate-this-obscure-font one. That one.

This font was worth it.

Now I know why, when I went searching for script tattoos that wrapped, I found one. One hit. Do you know how many pictures of body art populate cyberspace? Should have been a red flag. When the artist warned me he would be getting frustrated during the stenciling phase, I started to understand: this was not the usual order. Of course. I’m one of those people who never orders a dish as it’s described on the menu.

The frustrating part: stenciling. “Winging it.”

No, I’m not bored. But I do have a philosophical look going on. I think I’m questioning my sanity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our tattoos are from Isaiah 43: When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God. – Isaiah

Every time I look at my tattoo, I’ll think of Katae. And I’ll remember God and how He remade my life.

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To You. From the Turkey

This Thanksgiving, stop. Halt the cooking, put your flour-dusted, pumpkin-splattered ear up to the knobby pink mountain of white meat and listen.

As you scoop your third helping of baked marshmallows with a dab of sweet potatoes, and your nether regions fuse to the chair, take note.

When your uncle walks in wearing a Make America Great Again hat and you’re tempted to rip it off his head and challenge him to a proper duel, pause.

When they’re late. Again. And the glory has congealed on the stove, and you’ve taken so many “test” bites you could be the one in the oven, and you wonder how come, if you can cook an entire dinner and be on time, why can’t they shower and show up on time? When you’re tempted to walk out on the whole thing, mark the headless guest of honor.

In the quiet moments of Thanksgiving Day 2017, hear what the turkey has to say:

No matter how pretty and right you think you are, time and circumstance will eventually catch up with you, and you will be shoved someplace where it’s very, very hot. – Brian Lageose

This is strait talk from the de-feathered guest of our tabletops. Want to read it elsewhere? Try Luke 16:19-31.

Admittedly, I lifted Brian’s quote quite out of context and used it for my own agenda. But Picasso has my back with his famous quote: Good artists copy; great artists steal. And honestly, Brian’s turkey has a Cassandra aura that begs to be repurposed. No matter how pretty, how polished, how published (for my writer-friends), how smart or powerful, how fat we or our wallets are—time and circumstance…

The good news is, we don’t have to be shoved someplace very, very hot, even upon being overtaken by time and circumstance. Thank you, Jesus and free will.  Every Thanksgiving I’m drawn again into the familiar glow of gratitude that God sent His only Son. And now, let’s end on a moment of laughter (or, depending on your tastes, disgust) I offer the following absurdity:

The Things I Carry

“What’s it like, being dead?”

“…I don’t know, I guess it’s like being inside a book that nobody’s reading.” – From Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. This quote bowled me over. Not just because it’s a fresh look at death, but because it captures my feelings. While I’m writing I Trespass, I’m “inside a book nobody’s reading.”

Which is to say, sometimes I feel dead.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad dead. Let’s pretend there’s good dead and bad dead, and this is more of the with-my-fellow-dead, dead. My characters and I are someplace everybody else isn’t.

In the Bible, the word death is never defined by lexicographers as annihilation or extinction or even unconsciousness, but as separation. And that distinction helps me wrap my mind around death. I hope it helps you too. So while I’m writing my book nobody’s reading, I feel a separation– like I have a secret or a double life. This is the thing I carry: my story. The one for which I presently labor, and the ones waiting in the queue of my imagination.

Yesterday I finished a short story based on a family member. I began writing with real names and only at the end did I do a find/replace. (Well look at that, some members of my family are paying attention.) Keeping as much truth as possible for as long as possible helps me in the initial slog-through of the story. Once I get momentum, truth and fiction blur. I mash together an uncle and a nephew into a new little boy of my own creation. The truth is, I had a feeling I wanted to convey. I can’t even name it, but it’s the way you feel when you’re unprotected and it begins to rain and home is a long way off. It’s one to which I keep returning– children and the forces that play upon them. I have an uncle who committed suicide, and I’ve often wondered how that went down the day they were told. Rather than ask (what fun is that?), I made up how it went down that day, the day they were told.

Anyway, I wanted so badly to share this story with somebody, anybody who could say yes, I get it! or no, you’re unclear, etc. I often draft my children into literary service. Gabe is a precocious twelve year old and has often shown me plot holes or character flaws, but this story is rather sordid. I spared him. Tory, my mature and insightful writing critic is overwhelmed with school and work, and only a selfish brute would put a manuscript under her nose (for the second time this week), so I didn’t. I thought of putting a call out to my friends on Facebook or WordPress along the lines of Ahoy! Anybody sitting around wishing for a beta read? The deadline is October 1st, and I need immediate assistance… But also a part of me wanted to just ship it off, which I did.

Writing is also like war time communication, pamphlets dropped by the thousands on an uncaring population. Even in Hiroshima and Nagasaki no one bothered to read the warnings dropped from American planes that said something along the lines of: Evacuate or die. And my missives are not nearly that important. You can imagine how few people read them. Well, maybe you can’t, but I can. You’d think the inverse relationship between labor output and actual reads would send me running to another, more impactful activity. On the contrary, If I can’t write something wonderful I know no one will read, I’ll write about the process of writing something I think is wonderful I know no one will read… Exhibit A: this post.

I meant to write about a harvest, which was my prompt from Carrot Ranch. Unfortunately, I got side-tracked. When I think harvest, the first thing that comes to mind is the harvest of souls talked about in Matthew 9:37. Jesus compares proselytizing to harvesting. Actually, harvesting is one of God’s favorite metaphors. At the end of all things, He says, there will be a great harvest where the wheat and the weeds will be gathered and sorted and– woe to you weeds out there. That’s the gist. Don’t be a weed.

Because separation doesn’t feel so cozy as a book nobody’s reading.

 

 

 

Luke’s Missions Trip 2017

Luke, 2016. To donate to this summer’s trip, click his picture. Thank you! 

Every summer since he was eight years old Luke’s gone on a short-term missions trip to an Indian reservation. This particular missions trip is so physically exhausting that most people (myself included) can’t hack it a second time around. Sleep deprivation, strenuous and sweltering construction, and mosquitoes of apocalyptic proportions are what you sign on for.

Luke loves it.

This year Luke hopes to travel with his high school youth group to Santiago de los Cavelleros, Dominican Republic, to share God’s message of salvation and love. Like his usual summer trip, this is no pleasure excursion, no summer camp experience. The students show love tangibly: playing with the kids at the dump where they live, cleaning, digging out foundations, construction– anything that needs to be done. They get dirty. They get sick. They get the gift of perspective. I dare not say God’s perspective, for no one can reach that. But they get a bit closer when they step out of their comfortable lives and go.

With all the need here, why go there? Because there is worse than here. It’s not enough to study National Geographic covers. One must go.

It is faith-building to lean on God’s provision. I’m not saying God couldn’t drop a duffel bag of $1,700  on our doorstep, but generally He works through the actions of people, moved to do benevolent work. Luke was moved to sign up. I am moved to write this post on his behalf. Some friends and family have been moved to support him with a donation. THANK YOU!!! If God just dropped the duffel, so much would be lost.

So here’s Luke. He’s been rolling subs, waiting tables, and working at various church functions– to raise the needed funds. On Sunday the students stood before the church. (Luke’s right behind Pastor Jonathan on the big screen.) As of today, Luke has half of his support raised. Kindly pray for Luke and the other students, that they’d raise the needed funds, that this trip would be life-changing, that God would eclipse all in the lives of the students, the advisors, and the people they go to serve.

If you would like to help Luke get to the Dominican Republic, send up a prayer for him and/or make a tax-deductible donation here.

Book Review: The Bible

Title: The Holy Bible 
Authors: 40+ men over 1500 years  
Genre: Non-fiction  
Publisher: God  
Release Date: 1535 
Pages: 1,200ish

 

Simply filling out the specs I’m picking a fight. My choice to label The Bible non-fiction communicates:

  1. Ignorance to secular scientists (Gah! Join the 21st century!)
  2. Intolerance to other religions (god wrote our book too)
  3. Combativeness to atheists (your god is what’s wrong with this world).

All that, over genre. No wonder the reviews are either 1. mocking or 2. pertain to the version and/or ergonomic design. No one reviews The Holy Bible for substance. Enter, me. 🙂 …little ole nobody gonna review God’s letter to humanity.

Authorship of the Bible is attributed to some forty bearded men and God. Hand-in-glove is the way it’s described, the men being God’s gloves. I personally struggled with accepting the Bible as written by God. Here’s how it went down, an analogy because I love literary devices:

I was tired. This chair looked really comfortable, but I didn’t trust it. I’d been warned against chairs: they were fine for decoration, but one didn’t actually sit. That was taking things too far. But like I said, I was tired of standing, and the chair looked cozy. How could I know whether or not it would hold? Might there not be a sharp spike just under the upholstery? I was taught in school about chairs; People like Jim Jones and Jim Baker sat in chairs (a murderer and a thief, respectively). But I’d lately learned some great people sat in chairs too. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. I scrutinized my chair from all angles. I asked other chair-sitters how they liked their chair and did it hold? Everything one could do to ascertain the soundness of this chair, I did. Except, I would not sit.

Talking with a chair-sitter one day*, she asked, “Don’t you believe this chair will hold you?”

I said I didn’t know.

To my surprise, she said, “Then we’re done here. There is nothing more I can do for you until you decide to sit in the chair.” I thought she was going to convince me about the chair. No, the only way to know for sure was to sit. She left. I got desperate.

I wanted the comfort of the chair, so I made a conscious decision to trust it. This was a leap in my faith. I had read the Bible before, as a work of literature like Dante or Shakespeare. Now I would read it as the answer to my question: why am I here? I would trust what it had to say. They call it the trust of a child. If you’re new to the Bible you have a decision to make before you open it. Is it or is it not Truth? Pontius Pilate famously asked, “What is truth?” It is not enough to ask. One must pursue truth like a lover.

A pursuit is not a meandering stroll or a meme search. It’s not a glance or a nap or an infusion. Think, stalker.

This image may help (warning: literary device #2): imagine you’re digging for buried treasure. When you’re digging, you sweat. You grunt. You’re not having much fun sometimes, but you’re convinced there’s something worth it, so you keep on digging. You want the treasure more than you want to rest. You throw up a prayer or a curse for your aching muscles, but on you press. This is how the Bible can be. Before you even open it, you must believe there is treasure in those pages. Proverbs 24 advises: seek [wisdom] as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures. 

Post-hole-digger

Not that there aren’t strategies. One can dig for treasure with her bare hands (not recommended). One can use a spade (better). Or one can use a post-hole-digger. Here is your complimentary Bible post-hole-digger:

  1. Start with the book of John in the New Testament. I didn’t listen to this advice and began with Genesis– digging with my bare hands. Thing is, the Bible is also a sort of ledger of Jewish history. There are verbose lists of family lines and architectural instructions and how-to de-germ people and/or your dwellings. Lots of sifting to get to the treasure. I should have listened, story of my life.
  2. As you read, write down questions or observations. One of my husband’s observations was the following insult: “…whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matt. 5:32b) Here was God, it seemed to my husband, rebuking him for his willingness to marry a single mom, adopt her baby girl, and love her as his own. Some people would’ve shut the book then and there or tossed it out the window. But my husband believed there was something worth pressing for, so he kept at it.
  3. Watch expectantly for God to answer your questions through His Word, through “random” people, and through “coincidental” events. Make one small step toward Him, and He will run to you.
  4. Record what happens.
  5. After John, read the other gospels and then the rest of the letters of the New Testament.
  6. Read the Psalms, one-a-day as you do this whole exercise.
  7. You will most likely find yourself undone at some point. The Bible is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12) It pierces your heart to be convinced God suffered and died for you. Head knowledge is not the same as heart. We can read about Syrian refugees, but only pictures seem to enter the heart.

This is what happens when you pursue faith. If a human photographer can capture a moment that so awakens our compassion, imagine what God can do if you fix your eyes upon Him.

Trusting the Bible is like sitting in that chair. What I didn’t realize until I sat, was that this wasn’t just some stationary chair in a heavenly lounge. I found the chair to be that of a co-pilot, in the cockpit of some marvelous engine that has taken me places I never would have imagined. I don’t mean exotic earthly places, though I’ve been to those as well. The Bible, my faith, my Lord, the friends and family He’s given me, the meaningful whole that is my life– have taken me to emotionally beautiful places.

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Matthew 13:44

Usually I rate books numerically according to readability and merit. Because I consider the Bible to be outside the realm of ordinary books, I would not dare assign it a number. None is high enough.

But read it, I challenge you… and the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:7

*The can-I-trust-this-Bible? conversation happened with a lovely woman who shared her faith with me, Debbie Spink. I remember being stunned she didn’t try harder to convince me the Bible was true or cajole me or debate with me. Her dismissal made me realize I wanted peace more than I wanted to win a debate. After I stewed for several months and gulped down the New Testament several times over, I met with her husband, Pastor Ken Spink. He fielded my gazillion questions and/or objections to the Christian faith.

Don’t Forget the Little Car Accidents

I like telling you about my car accidents. The slaps of fate, I consider my teachers. So when life smacks me down and I taste the dirt, my natural response is to share what it tasted like. This isn’t new. My very first attempt at voluntary writing (age nine) was an apology to the Almighty in response to a botched attempt at digging up a dead cat. How does one botch the exhumation of a dead animal, you wonder? Could the unearthing of rotting pet go well in any reality? It could’ve gone better, I submit.

One of the farm dogs got wind (haha) of what we kids were doing and decided he was going to get himself a little dead cat dinner. Black hefty bag and all. Digging in, girlie, don’t mind if I do…

To say I felt “bad” about my friend’s cat strewn about the farm like confetti, my little experiment gone wrong, was quite the understatement. You’re going straight to hell for this one, Kelly, straight to hell. And so’s the dog.

I penned my confession to God about how profoundly sorry I was, how things didn’t turn out the way I intended, and could God forgive?– I just had a strange curiosity as to what a dead thing looked like. I’d never been to a funeral, never died myself. It was an honest mistake made in the name of science. Kind of like Victor Frankenstein.

Meanwhile, back on track. I had another wee car issue recently. Remember the gal I rear-ended? This time I scraped a car as I pulled into a spot at the YMCA. As soon as I heard it, I went into denial mode. That did not just happen. That was nothing. I actually pulled out my how-to-write book and acted like I was going to sit there and read it because what did I have to hide? I didn’t really scrape the car next to me. It was the tiniest feathery touch. Nothing to worry about.

But my stomach did that dance it does, like when I get pulled over by a (love you so much thank you for your service) man in blue. It’s the Dance de Guilt. So I did what any selfish, overworked, underfunded, stressed out, petulant irresponsible 44 year old would do: I backed my car out and parked in another space.

As I did so, my headlights fell upon the “little scratch.” Eeeeeeck. All pretense of its being feathery left my horizon. It was a bright line the same color as my car, running the entire length. My Dance de Guilt made its way into my heart and began a stomp dance while I deliberated with God about why I should just go. Go! No one saw. It was still just a scratch, went my reasoning. I had no time to do the right thing, went my reasoning. And I was so very tired. And poor. And did I mention I was poor?

We’re not poor, not really, but I didn’t feel rich enough to write my name and number on a piece of paper and put myself at the mercy of whoever’s car I’d redesigned. I hoped the person would come out and not even see it and leave while I had it out with God, that my opportunity to do the right thing would pass, and I’d be de facto absolved.

I kept chanting no one saw, no one saw. God saw.

I tell you I did the right thing for Him. Not for any other reason than for the fact that I love God and God calls me to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly. (Like I could forget, it’s on the right margin of this very blog!) I wish I could tell you it’s my knee jerk reaction to do the right thing.

For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. – Philippians 2:13

I wrote the note and placed it on the windshield. It went something like:

I’m very sorry I scraped your car as I was pulling in the spot next to yours. I do have insurance, but if you don’t mind, I’d rather pay for the damage outright. Here is my phone number, and again I’m very sorry to have caused you trouble. – Kelly Griffiths

Waiting to hear from X Car Owner made me physically sick. I braced myself for the call from some car-obsessed victim junky hoping for a windfall, who’d start the conversation with a hit and run threat, spiced with expletives, who’d rip into me with what the hell’s wrong with you?

Just yesterday this was said from the pulpit of my church (I know you’re going to want to go there when you hear it): We’re going to make holiness sexy again. 

He actually spoke those words. No joke. Holiness. Sexy. Again.

People acting like God and it’s attractive.

I’m determined not to forget the little accident or the elderly, phlegmy-voiced man who called and said he’d buff the mark out, no worries, no cost, who said it was real nice of me to leave a note when I could have just left, and don’t worry, honey, I wouldn’t take advantage… I’m a Christian man.

A Christian man? How peculiar. You have my number because I’m a Christian woman.

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Holiness. Attractive. The following theoretical scenario is part of my salvation journey, part of what convinced me to follow Christ. It was the first time holiness was sexy to me. And it goes like this:

You’re walking alone down a dark alley in the middle of the night in a shady section of town. Ahead, you see a gang of men walking toward you. (I lived in San Diego at the time, in a section where you couldn’t get a pizza delivered because it wasn’t safe.) Walking alone… a gang of men walking toward me… yes. Quite terrorizing.

Wouldn’t you feel relieved to know those men had just left a Bible study?

Yes, of course. That changed everything. Holiness, the pursuit of it– had I known the men were leaving a Bible study, my hand would be off the trigger, my heart would trust. I could smile at them and they could smile at me.

And we’d all live holy ever after. Holiness. Sexy.

not-by-might-nor-by-power-but-by-my-spirit-says-the-lord

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:10

 

 

The One Feared is the One Revered

hand-mushroom-cloud-blast-explosionI don’t want to be worshipped– I want to terrify. My rival covets worship, but I’ve never been so inclined. You could say between the two of us, I’m the humble one. And between the two of us, I’m the one providing a service: I scare you, don’t I? Scare you into looking before you cross the street, frighten you into taking the boring, bill-paying job, terrify you into aborting those inconsequential cells growing inside you because no way can you handle what’s coming down the pike, my dear. No way. Be reasonable.

What does my rival do for you? …What? He hung the celestial bodies, slapped them spinning… and what’s bedecked His resume since then? Ask the burned-up, disheveled Syrian boy. Ask the refugees. Or the republicans. Ask the four-footed critters or winged creatures whose orb is fracked and fractured and asphalted, whose space is raped. Ask, what has He done for you lately?

I never asked to be worshipped.

But to petrify, that is my game. Humanity thrives on terror. I submit The Exorcist, all things Stephen King, the Autobahn on a rainy day, and Donald Trump any day. Who delivers this exquisite fright? Yours truly. And I never ask for applause. All I ask is you not applaud my rival, not send upward looks and wide-open arms and prayers for deliverance. No one’s coming.

I want to terrify because the one feared is the one revered. The one feared– his fat, itchy finger perches awkwardly on the launch button. Did I mention North Korea in my exhibit list? Terror fuels the world, make no mistake. What scurrying when the alarm sounds, what an economic boon is war! Didn’t your mother tell you she beat you for your own good? I gave her that phrase.

[Submitted to Cracked Flash Fiction contest. As I wrote this entry, I realized my default is not to story, but to essay. The Screwtape Letters is branded deep into my subconscious, and I shift into first person essays without meaning to. What to do about that? Recently I posted about changing my novel to 1st person. I figure I should do what comes naturally while I’m floundering about. Babies don’t run the 4 by 400. When I force myself into a format, the writing screams, “I’m stilted!” Then I hate it. Then I delete it. I’ve collected quite a few rejections from CFF, perhaps because my writing is more aptly described as Cracked Flash Essay. Ha! Well, the wounded warrior pets herself and finds excuses as to why she didn’t get the gold, doesn’t she? Whatever mind games we have to play to get back out there and get rejected again.]

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