Eighteen (TWENTY now)

This is my blog.  It belongs to me.  I can write what I want to and not have the same level of public that Facebook has.

So here goes.

Eighteen babies — twenty-seven people altogether — died today because a mentally ill man had a gun in his hands.  Reports are early.  Maybe there were two shooters.  Maybe more than twenty-seven people died.  Maybe the shooter wasn’t mentally ill.  Maybe he was just having a really bad day/week/month/year/season of life.  That level of reaction and violence speaks to mental illness, though.

So here’s my rant.

If he hadn’t had a gun those children might have only been injured and not killed.  Maybe the number would be lower.  No matter the mental state and motive of the perpetrator, you cannot kill as many people as easily with a knife or any other weapon as you can with a gun.  You cannot kill them from as far of a distance and you cannot kill them as easily without training.

A gun in the hand of an imbalanced person is a dangerous, dangerous thing.  A knife in the same hands isn’t nearly as dangerous.

Mental health services in our culture are abysmal.  For people with money who want treatment, it is there and wonderful.  For people without money who are perfectly content to live in their delusion, it is next to impossible to get help.  Parents, spouses, adult children cry out for help for loved ones and hit brick walls over . . . and over . . . and over.

I don’t have answers.  I have absolutely none.  I see the problems, though.  It’s way too easy to get a gun.  It’s way too hard to get mental health services.

Surely . . . surely there’s a way to change at least one of those problems.

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Sometimes, words are worth 1000 pictures

There are times when the rich words of the poets say it best.  I admit it.  I struggle with this whole Christmas thing. I’m tired, I’m busy, I’m broke.  What we as a culture have done with Christmas is just wrong, and trying to tag it as a religious holiday makes it even worse.  I would gladly take the name “Christmas” off of the commercialized, materialistic glut-fest that our culture observes every year.

Christmas should be calm.
Quiet.
Reflective. 

Or maybe loud, boisterous, and full of laughter.

But not crazed, exhausting, and guilt-inducing.

Two poems — two very different poems — have been on my mind lately.

First, an old one: 

This world is too much with us
By William Wordsworth


This world is too much with us; late and soon
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn. 

And now, a new one:

I Feel Sorry for Jesus
By Naomi Shihab Nye

People won’t leave Him alone.
I know He said, wherever two or more
are gathered in my name…

But I bet some days He regrets it.

Cozily they tell you what he wants
and doesn’t want
as if they just got an e-mail.
Remember “Telephone,” that pass-it-on game

where the message changed dramatically
by the time it rounded the circle?
Well.
People blame terrible pieties on Jesus.

They want to be his special pet.
Jesus deserves better.
I think He’s been exhausted
for a very long time.

He went into the desert, friends.
He didn’t go into the pomp.
He didn’t go into
the golden chandeliers

and say, the truth tastes better here.
See? I’m talking like I know.
It’s dangerous talking for Jesus.
You get carried away almost immediately.

I stood in the spot where He was born.
I closed my eyes where He died and didn’t die.
Every twist of the Via Dolorosa
was written on my skin.

And that makes me feel like being silent
for Him, you know? A secret pouch
of listening. You won’t hear me
mention this again.

Photo Challenge: a calendar

Almost two years ago, a friend tore out this saying from her page-a-day calendar and gave it to me.  We had recently had a deep discussion about our mutual need to get out of routine and into a deeper place of faith and relationship with God. It wasn’t that we weren’t going to church — we were.  It wasn’t that we weren’t praying — we were.  It wasn’t that we weren’t reading our Bibles — we were.  We just both felt . . . stuck.

A couple of days later, she gave me this.  I don’t know that it answered all my stuck questions, but it has served as a constant reminder that there is more to my faith journey than the comfortable routines.  It also helps me remember that a partner to learning about truth is living out that truth, or being sure that it has an “expression in life.”

What do you do when you feel stuck?  When your external actions and head are in the right place, but your spirit still feels off?  What helps you move past book knowledge and ritual and into experience and devotion?

Photo Challenge: an invitation

This is an invitation I need every day, but especially at the busy times — like the end of the semester — or during the flurry of Christmas activities — or when they both hit together.

Take a moment and answer this invitation.  God is omnipresent — all present — in all and through all — so you do not have to go anywhere special to be with him.  Just take a moment and be with him.  Just be.

Set aside the papers and projects and plans.  Don’t worry about the still unfinished homemade gifts or the food you need to cook and can’t because your oven suddenly doesn’t work.  Oh wait — that’s me.  But some time today, savor the presence of the one who issued this invitation.

Maybe this will help.  Push play.

December Photo Challenge

I recently discovered Middle Places.  One of its goals is to help us focus on attention on there rather than here.

I need that focus, especially when it’s easy for the holiday season to be rushed, busy, and more about stuff than people.

Or Jesus.

Middle Places is hosting a December Photo Challenge.  Today’s theme is A Quiet Place.

This is a picture I took with my phone while we were at Lake Claiborne State Park with Keith’s family for Thanksgiving. Our cabins were lakeside and each morning, I was able to go out onto the pier and just sit and be and look over the lake.

I don’t get enough down time.  Enough outside time.  Enough quiet time.

I’m thankful I was able to capture this image as a reminder of the calm and peace that was present each morning of our stay.

The time has come

Earlier this year, I decided to send Christmas letters this year.  We’ve had a couple of crazy years so it’s been a while since I have.

If you would like to hear from the Burleys this year, please leave a comment with your preferred mailing address.  Even if you think I already have your preferred mailing address, please leave it anyway.  I have often said that I am the world’s most unorganized librarian and this will make it much easier for me.

Love you all!  You are blessings in my life.