Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Here is a gift to this blog from one of the inhabitants of Trinity Kirksville--as you know, donkeys are highly appreciated on this blog and any good donkey literature will be considered for posting. The author only asks that you attribute her if you pass this around and please do not use for monetary gain. In other words, be a good "copyright citizen".

The Foal

The old donkey's nostrils flared at the smell coming from the little wisps of steam emanating from the pile of rags in the barn. That smell was no stranger to her--the odor of cooling blood from a placenta, thrown into the rags for disposal. This odor, familiar yet comforting, was one she knew that lingered in the barn after the birth of her own foals--the smell of new life, mixed with old, congealing blood. As her nose bumped the rag pile, she recalled her own babies, who had long been sold as soon as they were old enough to wean. Babies now long grown. Babies that, as adults, she would not recognize except for their smells. She would never forget their smells, even though many years had passed.

Her eyes scanned the man and the woman, these sleeping invaders, in her barn. She could see another tiny focus of steam in the cold night air, also arising from a rag bundle held by the woman. Slowly she inched to the steam, quietly, so as not to awaken the couple, again the nostrils flaring, those same smells of drying blood and mucus wafting into her nasal passages. As her nose closed the gap, she could see that curled in this bundle was a human foal. She could smell the drying amniotic fluid in his hair. She smelled all the aromas that her foals had, and the aromas of the mother of this foal, who very slowly opened a sleepy eye, yet did not shoo the donkey away. She was content to let the donkey nuzzle this tiny pink foal. The mother's eye closed again.

The donkey's velveteen nose ever so gently stroked the human foal, and she took in all the smells, the steam from the bundle mixing with the steam from the donkey's exhaled breath. Something was different about this foal. Not just the human smells, but there were other smells different from those of humans. Her ears twitched as she smelled spring flowers, gentle breezes. She felt a heat upon her nose like warm sunshine. The foal opened his eyes—just a little—gurgled, sighed, then fell back asleep. This foal was different than other human foals, but the donkey did not know why.

Suddenly, in the background another smell gripped her--a very faint but also familiar and far less comforting smell. She detected the tiniest bit of the stench of death. She cocked her ears in confusion. This foal was very much alive, but in the background was a lingering overtone--the dying smell of a carcass--the wet rusty smell of blood. Although it was only the faintest of smells, it filled her nostrils in a way that frightened her, and she backed away from the foal and made her way to the open door that led into the corral. She wanted to run from the dying smell but could not. She wanted so badly to bolt, to kick out, to bray uncontrollably, but for some reason she did not.

She turned from the sleeping people and looked outside, and at that moment, her gaze met the star. She had never seen one like it, and she had traveled many miles over the years in darkness, with only the stars to guide her and her master. This star filled the sky in a way she had never seen, its light falling upon her back like rivets of heat in the summer sun. As the light from this star mixed with the hair of her coat, she felt a warmth that, with each breath she took, slowly removed the lingering aroma of death from her nostrils, and filled them with yet more aromas. She could smell the sustaining smell of rich green grass, she could smell pungent sage, aromatic exotic herbs--all the things that filled her belly with contentment--and the death odor abated.

She turned so that one eye met the star, and the other met the tiny sleeping human foal. She had no idea why this foal was different. But she knew she would never forget the smell of this foal, any more than she could ever forget the smells of her own babies. She was only an old donkey, but she knew this foal was different.

©Maria L. Evans
11/19/2007


Ok, we've established I appreciate good religious tattoos, both my own and those of my friends. I love it when my friends drop me pics of their religious tattoos that are cool enough to share. This one was inked by a local tat artist, Chad Weigert, of Why Not Tat2s here in Kirksville. Chad has won several body art awards and his work was displayed in the Body Art exhibition at the Smithsonian. I was impressed with the attention to detail and the use of liturgical color.

This Sunday's sermon had to force Carrol to meander around more apocalyptic stuff...this time the stuff in Luke 21. I was sitting there thinking about everything from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame to rattling off "War, famine, earthquakes, pestilence...nation against nation...kingdom against kingdom..."....and like the old Bugs Bunny Wagneresque cartoon goes, "Smog!"

It was not all the scary stuff in the text, but the final line that struck me--”By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

Christ's message is not “Ooooo, all these bad things are gonna happen so you better get your ass in gear and repent,” it is, “Yeah, bad things will happen...but if you stick with me, you will endure these things.”

I was thinking during the sermon about the fact that it is not wars and earthquakes and tidal waves and famine and pestilence that directly affects me, it is cousins in custody battles and cousins with alcoholic husbands and extended relatives with dementia and close associates who are retiring and leaving me in charge and family members with multiple chronic illnesses and anxiety disorders, and a vicar with pneumonia that make up my scary apocalyptic stuff. That “apocalypse” is much more real to me than all the natural disaster "end of the world" apocalyptic stuff. Who gives a rat's ass about the end of the world when sometimes the world in no danger of ending is a seemingly never-ending litany of shit? On some of these days, the end of the world seems like a welcome relief.

Then I got to thinking...maybe for our more fundamentalist bretheren and "sisteren", that is the weird attraction they have about the Apocalypse and their obsession with the Rapture. Maybe that is simply an attractive "escape fantasy." Maybe it gives people the opportunity to think to themselves, "This world is such an un-redeeming place that I sort of like the idea that if I'm good, Santa God will just whisk me right out of here, and I'll go to heaven and it will all be shiny happy joy joy."

That would be a little hard to do in my case, since I believe the Rapture is a 19th century invention based on Scriptural over-interpretation. I believe we're stuck with the world we're in till we die. Hey, when we die, it's the end of this world for us anyway. I believe with all my heart that the only thing that totally releases us from the darkness of our own personal apocalypses is death. No matter how close we try to get to God, and our success at getting closer, we never really quite get there. So the key is in that last sentence--endure. Ok, so I've established my Christianity is not a happy happy joy joy Christianity, it's one that is sometimes laced in an envelope of darkness.

The good news is we never endure alone. Christ endures with us. His sacrifice endures with us. That part about "gaining our souls" is very comforting to me. His words tell me that this is worthwhile work, to endure the darkness, because with each event, we gain something. We gain the understanding and awareness of our very own essence. By doing that, we can more freely give of ourselves. We become more complete.

Apocalypse? Ahhhhh, bring it on....

Well, this week's Gospel was the story of Zaccheus. Once you can get the Sunday School song out of your head, there is actually a lot of meat in that story. First of all, you have to think about EXACTLY why Zaccheus might have gotten up in that sycamore tree...

Why do I like driving a pickup truck? Because I like sitting above the bulk of the cars. Not because I want to be “bigger” but because I want to see a bigger picture. I like being able to see over little cars and see more of the road.

Then there’s the distance issue. Why is it psychologically easier for bomber pilots to drop their load on a city full of civilians than it is for an infantryman to kill an enemy bare handed? Because the bomber pilot is further removed from the blood and gore and the reality of it.

So think about this. Here’s a little short fart that no one likes. No one is going to offer to let him get in front of them to see what’s going on. So he can accomplish two things by getting up in that tree:

1. He can see a bigger picture. He can see what people are doing up the road with Jesus. He can get a better overview of what this is all about.

2. He can distance himself a little from the reality of his here and now—that those people down there don’t like him. He can think about that Jesus guy more clearly because he is not having to deal with every push, every shove down there that constantly reminds him he’s a jerk and that these people don’t like him. He can divorce himself a little from the everyday pain that might cause.

Sometimes to see the big picture, you have to take yourself out of the reality of pain that enmeshes you. You have to remember what it feels like to not have a constant irritation in your day. You have to be “above” it to see it all. We all do that in a lot of ways, sometimes with physical height, sometimes with darkness, sometimes with solitude, sometimes with activity. All of these things can take us to a place “beyond hurting.”

I have to admit I am a height junkie and a “wide open spaces” junkie. One of the things I like about my property is that I live on the “prairie” side of Highway 63 but my hunting timber is on the “hilly” side of 63. Highway 63 as it runs north of Jefferson City is more or less located on a natural divide in the state—the Grand Divide. Everything west of 63 drains to the Missouri River, and everything east of 63 drains to the Mississippi River. West of 63 consists mostly of rolling hills with some relatively high terrain in the state. East of 63 consists mostly of “flatlands.”

I think what I like about heights is that it makes everything below you small. It makes your irritants smaller. It makes what bugs you more inconsequential. It allows you to see beyond obstacles. About two years ago, I visited Gettysburg. Anything you ever read about that battle talks about “the advantage of the high ground.” Spiritually, I think this is true in both a physical sense, and in a moral sense. In the physical sense, seeing “over” and “beyond” a patch of ground makes the rough spots in the ground more inconsequential. When you can keep yourself on the moral high ground (I hate the word “moral”, it sounds so Holy Joe-ish, but I don’t know what else to do), you can more easily weather the potholes in your life. Even if the outcome is not what you wanted or is not all that great, you can weather it better because you did not add more baggage to your own feelings of being an impostor.

Seeing wide open spaces also reminds you of the connectedness in life. I remember as a kid, once in a while my grandfather would take me over to Canton, MO to the lock and dam. We would pack a lunch and just sit and watch the barges go through the lock. One of the things I remember was that I would watch a barge or two go through at ground level and then go up on the observation deck and watch the next boat or two. I remember how wide the Mississippi River seemed from the ground. I could not even fathom swimming across it. But then I would look to my left and right, and think about how this huge river starts out as a little creek coming off of Lake Itasca in Minnesota. At St. Cloud, MN, the Mississippi is no wider than the Chariton River. Then to my right, it only got wider and bigger.

I used to imagine that river running for miles and miles north and south, and imagine where might be the EXACT spot north of me where I COULD swim across that river. There is a place where insurmountable things can be crossed in our lives...but we have to have the view of distance and wide open spaces to imagine it. If we cross them at the spot where we are at, it is suicidal folly.

Or, perhaps at that spot you can cross it, but in a boat. But what boat? Not a john boat with oars! Not one with a trolling motor! It has to be a big enough boat to cross safely, or a small boat with a big enough engine. Then you have to ask, “What kind of ride do I want?” Do you want the staidness and slowness of a ferry, or do you want to put a big ol’ Mercury outboard on the john boat and blast across, in the choppy waves, with at the very least a bumpy ride and the possibility you will be thrown off course and end up somewhere further down the river; at worst you might overturn. There are arguments for and against either option. In other words, you can choose, and you just might opt for the adventure of the smaller boat. Then again, you might opt for the smoother, slower ferry ride.

If you’ve ever fished in the Mississippi, the first thing you notice is the constant push on the upstream side of the boat, and the sheer power of that river. You never stop feeling it. You never stop constantly adjusting your position to keep the river from taking you away. If you’ve ever cut the engine and let it drift, it is just scary power you are feeling.

One of my college classmates was one of the Canton ferryboat pilots every summer. Just to take his test for his ferry pilot’s license, he had to know every undertow, every whirlpool, every sand spit for a several mile stretch of the Mississippi. But to even take that big slow ferry across the river, he needed the height of the pilot house to see what he needed to see.

So yeah, even that “wee little man” Zaccheus realized he needed to understand what Jesus was all about from the high ground—a place he was not used to seeing—and once he got the height, it all became clearer.

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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