Flash Fiction Friday–Among the Redwoods

Leeanna passed through the trees, a mere shadow amongst the towering redwoods dozens of feet above. She often wandered this very path on days when everything seemed to slip sideways and nothing could be grasped nor understood. The path seemed to almost remember her.

Crescent City, California might as well be light years away when Leeanna walked here. Up ahead a pine cone dropped to the forest floor. She stooped for it, feeling its rough ridges and coarse texture with her fingers. Today she wrestled with purpose once again. If only she had gotten a different degree, if only she had stuck longer with the one professional job she’d had in a line of dead beat, dead end jobs, if only she had been made differently, more conformed to the fast-paced world around her.

She had read somewhere that only 7% of the redwood pine cone seeds actually resulted in a tree. The object in her hand was very likely sterile, just as her life felt. Still there was a chance it could produce a tree, and some day, perhaps hundreds of years from now, it too would tower with the others above her, long after her own journey had ended.

A sharp breeze carried a slight smell of the ocean. Just for fun she held the pine cone up to her ear, wondering if it would sound of the forest, like a shell with the sea. The breeze came again, this time with a pungent moist dampness to it that made her shiver. With pine cone to ear, she thought she heard her name being called.

She swung her arm by her side and then lifted the cone again to her ear. Leeanna. Three or four times the call came, and only when the pine cone was to her ear. Hearing her voice in such a childlike manner brought a sudden smile to her face.

She knew she was not alone, she was not forgotten and no matter how much she struggled with purpose, she would not be overlooked.

 

Walker

I’m a walker. A few years ago I finished up a virtual walk across the United States from Portland, OR to Portland, ME, 3200 miles mainly walked with a pedometer on a hilly mountain road.

But today I want to talk about another kind of walker I am and a different sort of walker that I long to be. I know some of you are Walking Dead fans but this has nothing to do with zombies.

Most days I am a Flesh Walker. I live in the physical and allow my flesh to direct my steps throughout the day. Some days this has worked just fine. Other days my flesh walking has caused utter chaos and despair in my life. In fact, some of the darkest days I’ve known have been the consequence of flesh walking.

The type of walker I long to be is a Spirit Walker. A Spirit Walker daily walks in the Spirit of God, entrusting every step to the God who knows us better than we know ourselves. When I spirit walk, it’s not that my steps are necessarily easier, but much more tolerable because even if I stumble, my Savior is there to pick me up and even carry me if needed.

Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (ESV)

So which kind of walker are you most days? What could you change to become more of a Spirit Walker?

Elephant Justice

The story about the elephant without tusks, tail and end of trunk is true, the rest is made up.

 

Ashok and Hari hurried away from the flailing elephant, tusks, tail and end of trunk stuffed into a bag and slung over Ashok’s shoulders. The elephant kicked its feet in the mud only to find itself too weak to stand.

The poachers made it to the outskirts of Goalpara in Assam, India by midnight and hoped the following day to meet the man who would pay them for their highly prized goods. They sat on the floor at the low table while the woman of the shack served them tea. The woman was silent but her eyes took in the men’s belongings and she eyed them cautiously. They barely noticed her lips moving quietly and assumed she was praying.

The single smudged lantern cast gloomy shadows along the planked walls. Ashok saw the huge basket by the bed mat and knew she was one of the villagers who walked daily up to the tea fields to harvest the leaves. He smugly asked for more tea.

Hari drifted off to sleep at the table. Soon Ashok took the woman’s bed mat for his own. The woman continued moving her lips, her eyes glistening by now.

When the men were both asleep, she slipped out of the shack and quickly turned on the path leading up into the hills. When she could no longer see the shack or her surrounding neighbors, she broke into a mournful chant, the fervor of her emotions building in her vocal lamentation.

Soon other voices joined in, the sorrowful screams of elephants grieving the loss of a friend. The woman’s chant grew louder, as did the elephants. At her loudest and highest pitch she lifted her arms in the air and swayed back and forth crying out for justice.

When it ended, the woman walked very slowly out of the hills and with each curve of the road she was joined by another elephant companion. By the time she reached her door, 42 elephants accompanied her.

And when Hari and Ashok awoke, they were surrounded.

Spiritual Senses

I think I need to get in touch with my spiritual senses. The sad part is I’m not even completely sure what they are.

Last night I was reading Tozer’s Pursuit of God and it was talking about how most of us, Christians included, aren’t even aware of spiritual senses. He talked about them being essential to our spiritual lives.

I awoke this morning thinking about how reliant I am on my physical senses, and on the physical world in general. Why is it so crazy hard to get at the spiritual? My prayer to God today was Beyond the physical.

We can, at times, get to the spiritual through the physical. I’ve experienced this at various places and times usually involving nature, sometimes a sunset, an unusual bird song, or even my dog’s behavior. I’m glad that God gives us access to the spiritual through the physical, but I wonder how much I’m missing out on by overlooking the spiritual by itself.

Earlier today a warm, wild wind was blowing. A hyacinth was knocked over and its stem broken off. I brought it inside and placed it in a glass on my table. It has an incredibly powerful smell.

I’ve been trying to understand my physical senses in the spiritual realm and I can’t help but notice how fragrant the hyacinth is, but also how its fragrance seems to come to me in bursts, not in a continual scent.

I wonder if the spiritual is like that. Maybe if our spiritual senses were fully understood and used we would be overwhelmed by the mystery of the Holy Spirit and unable to function anymore in the physical.

I don’t know, but I would love your input. What do you think is meant by our spiritual senses? What’s an experience you’ve had that awakened your spiritual senses?

 

Rambling Irish Thoughts

I’m pretty sure I’m not Irish. Still, like many on St. Patrick’s Day, I wish I were. And I’m not really sure why.

I went to Ireland over ten years ago and that has been the extent of my overseas travels at this current time. I’m hoping in the next decade or so to remedy that situation.

I loved it. I loved the people, I loved the rural areas, I could admire the cities, but my heart belonged out in the countryside, like it always does, on the Cliffs of Moher, hopelessly lost with a friend on a back country road. Or perhaps traipsing through a fifth century cemetery suited me equally well.

At any rate, I have fond memories of Ireland.

Almost twenty years ago, while living in Lincoln, MA, I stumbled upon the St. Paddy’s Day Parade in Harvard Square. I remember thinking it so surreal that a midwest farmer’s daughter should stumble upon such a rowdy group of Irish Bostonians, out to enjoy the festivities.

The luck o’ the Irish. I love looking for four leaf clovers. When I was young my sister and I would spend many afternoons looking for four leaf clovers. It helped immensely after we discovered that certain patches of clover in our yard were more lucky than others.

Ah, the childlike thrill of finding a four leaf clover! I can’t help but look as an adult when I find myself in a patch of clover.

I like these weeds, as some would call them, for another reason as well. The trinity reminder–another sign in nature directing us to God. I believe that God loves four leaf clovers too. When we join ourselves to God’s trinity, we are four strong.

If there are patches of clover and shamrock in heaven, I believe they will all be four leaf clovers.

Do you have any fond Irish memories or St. Patrick’s Day traditions?

 

 

 

Flash Fiction Friday “Grinray’s Quest”

I am so not going in there again. I don’t care if they hold a gun to my head or threaten to kill my family, friends or boyfriend. I glare at the environmental officers standing in a circle, plotting their next move, or rather mine.

The only reason I volunteered for this task was because my boyfriend and I had had a fight, the kind where one of you threatens to leave. And I did. So now I’m here just outside the blazing orange rainforest referred to by the locals as “Nefapaquim” which means “disaster comes to the earth.”

Crap, here they come. Breathe, just breathe.

“Grinray, we’re going to need you to go back in and collect more samples. And this time we’d like you to eliminate it.”

“I can’t, I–”

“You must. Think of your friends, your family; think of humanity. You can save humanity if you enter Nefapaquim one more time. Now, Jerry has programmed your course into the head of your safety gear. You’ll see your target getting closer as you go. Once you reach it, destroy it, collect samples and get the hell out of there as fast as you can before the others attack.”

I change into a fresh skin-tight, raven black, indestructable shield suit. I’m so nervous I’m unable to put the helmet on. Jerry gets it on and tests our telepathic communications. I must not speak aloud in Nefapaquim, the risk of being compromised is far too high.

I’m ready to go. I test my automatic hand laser on a nearby tree. Clean shot, the tree topples. A local dressed in a colorful feathery cape begins to sway and spin, his form of prayer for me.

I walk to the edge of Nefapaquim. I can already sense the radio-active capuchin green primates staring down at me from their safe havens high above in the abnormal blaze orange trees.

This is it. This is my last chance to save humanity.

Rut Chucking

I am a rut runner. I discover the way I like things to be and I meticulously walk the same path over and over and over, until the groove deepens and the mud underneath my feet is comfortable.

But ruts are tricky. They can become slippery slopes or clumpy clusters of things that have become normal in our lives. Take food for instance.

Last week I started a three week funky diet where I am doing away with seven different foods. Once I made it past the cravings, I was surprised by how much I relyed on these not-particularily-super-healthy foods. In small amounts, by themselves, most are healthy. This week I realized how much they’ve been a part of my mealscape (it’s like landscape for food).

Ruts, pure and simple, and lots of them. Once out of these food ruts, I have been challenged to find creative alternatives. There’s been a couple mishaps. A scientific experiment involving kefir grains, coconut milk and fermentation went a bit wrong. Last week a craving nearly did me in.

Overall, I find I am eating healthier and enjoying the creativity of thinking outside my normal mealscape rut.

It makes me wonder about other areas of my life. Where else am I stuck in unhealthy ruts? How can I get out of them?

Perhaps a few rut reality checks are in order. Perhaps I need to do some rut chucking.

This I know:  I am thankful to be out of ruts. Initially it is hard, be it physical habits, emotional patterns, or spiritual practices. But once out I see how vast and varied the world around me is and I am challenged to go out and embrace the new.

What about you, where do you need to do some rut chucking?

The Grower

The winter of my discontent is breaking up. It seems I’ve been huddled inside for decades, while outside the cold wind blew and rain rain rain, like only the Pacific Northwest can experience, helped to keep the sky a consistent grey.

And I know there were sunny days scattered amidst the grey, but they weren’t warm sunnies and there weren’t nearly enough of them. It was 51 degrees when I woke up this morning. 59 degrees in my house. Crocuses are up and in bloom. Many days I can hear birds singing again. Anticipation of what’s coming.

And inside my heart God is working the soil, clearing out the old to make way for the new. Cultivation.

It’s not about me and what I think should be planted there, what I believe I should look like–externally through my circumstances. No, it’s about what’s going on in my heart, and I probably will not understand it fully until much later. All I know is that I am eager and ready for Christ to clear out the old, ancient dead attitudes and thoughts in me, things that have suppressed me for much of my life. I am ready for His perspective.

I am ready for His will in a real way, not so much in a “I’m a good Christian and therefore I seek God’s will” kind of way. I genuinely want His will for my life, I’ve mucked it up far too long doing it my own way.

And so today I embrace spring, externally and internally. Clear out the dead, make way for the new pushing its way out of the ground where it’s been waiting for so long.

What about you? Do you sense God wanting to plant something new in you? Are you willing to get out of the way, to expose your heart to the Grower of good things? What’s He whispering to you?

 

Charlie’s Rock-Out

Today is flash fiction Friday. Here is a story for your amusement. Although I suppose you could comment on it too, or debate a minute point of it or something.

Charlie “the Fang” Dentin sat in his dressing room while Annette his hairdresser worked magic with Vidal Sassoon mousse and Aqua Net hairspray. She nearly always used a full can of both on Charlie’s bleached white, shoulder length hair. She pulled up and sprayed until her fingers got stuck and then he predictably helped pry her out and pulled her on his lap for an even more predictable bad boy of rock kiss.

After Annette giggled and ran from the room, Charlie stood to begin his pre-stage mantra. “O-why-ee-o-why-ee-o-me-ee” was internally spoken as he stretched his legs in the white, tight leather pants. He didn’t need another wardrobe malfunction this year; 1984 had been bad enough already what with that boy throwing up on him and then that hot teacher running a red permanent marker down his front when he tried to steal a kiss from her. Charlie’s outfits didn’t grow on trees.

His manager Carl poked his head in the door. “You ready?”

“Yeah. Got my guitar?”

“Right here.” Carl opened the door all the way for Charlie. “Now remember, stick to the songs we rehearsed. I don’t need another Syracuse incident.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Charlie reached for his electric guitar and chanted to himself again. Four more shows this year. He could make it. He knew he could.

He slid the guitar strap over his neck and ran his fingers across the strings. He imagined himself opening for Def Leopard at Shea Stadium. He could hear the mob of rockers chanting his name, “Fang! Fang! Fang!”

The flourescent lights in the gymnasium of Harbor View Elementary had been dimmed. Charlie walked to the stage and plugged into the amp. He strummed a single chord and the first through fourth graders screamed. He wailed his way through a rocked out version of why to brush your teeth and at the end the dwarfed crowd was silent.

A lone voice came from the crowd, “Mrs. Ditner, why is he playing a giant toothbrush?”

Charlie cringed inside and began his second song, “Molar, Why’d Ya Have To Go Bad.”

Charlie “the Fang” Dentin knew it was either play a toothbrush-shaped guitar and sing dentally, or work at the local factory plucking chickens.

Withdrawal

Day three of self-imposed dietary restrictions for the purpose of physical health and spiritual clarity. Struggling big time.

I am craving. I long for a thick slice of warm, homemade bread lathered in soft butter, chocolate in nearly any form, creamy, rich, frothy milk. Cheese. Pasta lathered in alfredo sauce.

And I’m cold. I cannot get warm today. I still shiver underneath three top layers and the outside temperature stays at a stubborn, perpetual 43 degrees. Chilly drafts blow through the century old rental house. The cold seeps in from below. My nose is frozen and I continually sniffle.

It occurred to me as I lay on the couch earlier hibernating under a blanket that couldn’t possibly be thick enough no matter how much stuffing–that I am going through withdrawal.

I resist the urge to remain on the couch, put in a movie and add another two blankets on top. My favorite escapes are being exposed by the Holy Spirit today:  carbs, creamy and rich foods and visual story. These are all comforts to me.

But I think I’ve become a bit too reliant on them to ease the pain in my life, to delay action–spiritual or physical, and have allowed them to have authority in my life that they were never meant to have.

I know, ruled by bread? At times, yes.

So I’ll continue shivering, drink more tea without a splash of regular milk, fight off the carb cravings and look to my Shepherd to guide me in this, the wasteland of my cravings.

What do you crave?