heavy boots

Heavy boots.

I learned this phrase last week in reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. The story is of a young boy deeply impacted by his father’s death in the 9/11 attack on New York City. As he wrestles with that horrific event, his own guilt from presumed failures on that dark day, his lack of control and the likelihood of continued tragedy in his life, he often references his heavy boots.

Oskar’s improbable journey in solving a puzzle, following clues around the city as he believes his Dad intended, is his remarkable pathway to healing. His boots lighten as the load is shared, shouldered mostly by caring elderly folk who step into his journey. I love the multi-generational nature of his healing.

I first learned something about heavy boots a long time ago, when my little sister was four, perhaps five, years old. We were making our way across a muddy pasture when she became too mired to move another step. She started wailing, as she was wont to do. And I, only fourteen months older and not a whole lot bigger, was at loss for how to help.

Fortunately, Grampy was not far away, bouncing across a hayfield atop an ancient tractor. He noticed her plight, stopped his work and rushed to the rescue. Grampy pulled my sister and her boots out of the muck, carried her to safety, and set her down on solid ground.

This sweet memory is a perfect illustration of our heavenly Father’s care for us, affirmed over and over in scripture. One of the first verses our children learned in Sunday School was a simplified version of 1 Peter 5:7, “God cares for you.” I have certainly found this to be true. Many a time I have been stuck and wailing and always, somehow, rescued. Most often He’s used others to help pluck me from the muck.

Each time my boots have become too heavy — whether disheartened by my own failure, burdened by health concerns, frightened by an untenable situation, grieving a loss, or wounded and hiding from the world — I can recall exactly who came alongside. Often it’s been my husband or sister-friend; sometimes my aunt, my mom, or a colleague. And to my joy, as my children have matured into independent adults, God uses them, too.

Regardless, it is only done with “There, but for the grace of God, go I…” humility and compassion, rushing in with love, never arrogance or accusation. There is no I told you so or I can fix this for you, just a patient Let me love you while you wail. But my boots get lighter as we wait on God together. Love, like my Grampy, lifts heavy boots.

Don’t just pretend to love others, really love them. (Romans 12:9)

~René Morley

hope

Moonbeams met early dawn’s light and bounced off the river as I passed over. The water flowed quietly, the bridge was empty, the morning still. I wondered if this ancient moon paved a path for the women laden with spices and grief so long ago. I hoped so.

We gathered on the front lawn for the sunrise service, just a couple of dozen hardy folk, most with crowns of gray and stiff limbs. Sprinkled in were a youth or two and a few middle-aged, like me. Our metal folding chairs transferred the frigid air into bone-deep shivers. But we were there to celebrate, to make note of a morning unlike any other, and neither an early hour nor the chill could steal our joy. With worship-warmed hearts our voices swirled forth in a frosty Hallelujah! chorus.

I thought about that first resurrection Sunday, when fear and confusion gave way to dare-we-hope? … and exulted when hope reappeared. Within hours, disciples in hiding became apostles empowered to share the Good News. They could not help but tell of their joy!

Two thousand years later, Easter Sunday proclaims victory over the dark angel of death. And because Someone made a way through and we are only passing through, we can have hope. Even, no especially, in the face of otherwise unbearable sorrow, sadness, and loss, we can have hope. Though my heart grieves with those who’ve lost a newborn, for those losing a parent — some slowly, some suddenly — for others battling to reclaim life, for tragic abuses and senseless deaths proliferating the daily news… yet, there is hope!

“Some say it’s cruel for God to make a life and take it / And I suppose that would be true / If this were the world that we were made for / If we weren’t only passing through …” (Carolyn Arends)

I saw this hope in my dad’s eyes, just before he passed over. I didn’t expect to see it there — in an otherwise hopeless hospital room, support systems disconnected and silent. But this was not hope in hope. This was hope in One much greater and proven worthy. There was peace beyond understanding in that sacred space; midst the sorrow there was joy. We could not help but sing! And I knew that my father, the teacher, was imparting his finest lesson: be not afraid.

Christ the Lord has risen! He is risen indeed.

~René Morley

*Read accounts of the resurrection in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20

horizon

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Easter weekend, 2012.

A robin perches high in the maple, her red breast exposed by spindly spring branches. She trills hopefully for awhile, then swoops off for better prospects. A lone Canadian goose honks loudly in landing midst the flock spread wide on the pasture. Other whistles and tweets and calls join into the song of praise as the sun sinks slowly, the treetops backlit as lace on a lamp. The mourning dove sings the final refrain, her gracious coos sailing from the silo, through the hedgerow, across the hayfield.

The wind has died down; the fire blazes a steady comfort. The stones of the firepit warm through the soles of my shoes to cozy my bare toes. My face tingles and flushes but I only lean in closer, absorbing more from the embers. I am alone with my thoughts but I am not lonely. I am thankful for the quiet.

This is that precious space and peaceful place, awake to dream. The horizon is wide and I am hopeful.

Anything seems possible.

~René Morley

jonathan

We ask that life be kind
And watch us from above
We hope each soul will find
Another soul to love

Let this be our prayer
Just like every child …

Need to find a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe.*

Did you catch Charlotte and Jonathan’s performance on Britain’s Got Talent? If you haven’t watched yet, you must.These are seven minutes you won’t regret.

Neither the audience nor the judges were expecting much from this duo, especially from Jonathan. The large young man stepped on stage in a faded Hendrix t-shirt, baggy jeans, and long, curly hair that nearly shouted nerd. Nobody. As the camera panned the audience, there was no mistaking where disdain was high and expectations low. One judge challenged them immediately, demanding. “Who’s idea was this?” Clearly, they were about to waste his valuable time. His hollow good luck wishes and sarcasm cast a shadow on the audience like a dark cloud passing.

And then Jonathan opened his mouth and began to sing “The Prayer” in tremendous operatic fashion. Charlotte’s clear accompaniment created a strong and sweet meld. And a few moments later, the audience leapt to their feet in spontaneous ovation as that same judge gathered his flapping jaw off the floor. Many, like me, were wiping tears from their eyes at the immense beauty and sheer poetic justice of it all. It was powerful.

But even more than their talent, I was impressed by their friendship. Charlotte gave to Jonathan the courage and self-confidence to get up on stage. He knew that he would face hecklers but he wouldn’t have to face them alone. Jonathan gave to Charlotte an opportunity to enter the big leagues. She can clearly go farther with him than on her own. And Jonathan didn’t hesitate for an instant when encouraged to dump Charlotte and go solo for the gold. “We’ve come on here as a duo and we’re gonna’ stay as a duo.” To this, the audience erupted again in extraordinary affirmation. These are young people of admirable character.

His response immediately called to mind another Jonathan. I Samuel 19-20 tells the story. King Saul sought to kill David. His own son and heir, Jonathan, was determined to save his friend’s life. Jonathan made a vow to David and kept his promise at great personal risk. Scripture reveals that Jonathan loved David as much as he loved himself. This is a powerful claim few can make in good faith.

May we each be such a friend, may we each have such a friend, even once.

~René Morley

*Lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager and David Foster

belonging

I returned home late last night from Chicago. It was a good trip. Not as good as I hoped because my time out and about in the city was limited to, well, just about none at all. But I did the work, connected with a few colleagues, made new business connections, experienced smooth flights and safe travel. Really, no complaints.

Except that this morning I feel so weary. It’s that ache-all-over feeling. It might be created, in part, by sleeping in anything but my own Tempur-Pedic bed for too many nights. Or multiple hours in those crazy uncomfortable plane seats. Or hauling a bag full of geek gear along for the ride. But mostly, I think, it is the result of remaining in a high-alert defensive mode as I traverse some part of this big ol’ world alone.

So I was really thankful for this guy at the airport restaurant looking for business. He crashed through the line at Chili’s asking for, “Singles? Follow me! Plenty of room here for you and your laptop!” I happily jumped the line to follow the pied piper. It was a bit of a disappointment to be led to the bar but he was right, there was plenty of room. He said the hostesses didn’t appreciate his interventions but there was nothing they could do about it and, “I gotta’ make a living, too!”

From my little perch I watched him work. Every few minutes, when the line got long, he’d go back looking for more business. Most of the time, he brought someone back with him. He’d warm up to every customer in a way that made him or her feel they belonged and, as a result, kept the place humming. I felt myself relaxing a bit, letting down my guard, enjoying the chit-chat and banter as he engaged his clients with even-handed expertise. When I departed, I left a nice tip. He’d earned it.

As I thought about this brief interlude in my day, I was reminded why it always feels so good to come home. No matter where I travel, I look forward to returning to where I feel safe. Where I am loved. Where I belong.

Everyone should be so lucky.

~René Morley

chicago

This morning I’m off to Chicago. If the Hubs were with me it would be a perfect trip but even so, I’m expecting it to be great. I’m relatively late to join the Second City fan club but trying to make up for lost time. This is my third trip inside of eighteen months. Once I sunk my teeth into deep dish, it was all over. Chicago is a great foodie and amazing arts scene surrounded by interesting architecture, upscale shopping and miles of shoreline — what more could a girl ask for? It may be windy but it will be worth it.

~René Morley