In Other Words: I Could Not Couldn’t Do It

In Other Words

It is time once again to write a piece for Patricia’s In Other Words Challenge. The challenge is to write a piece of flash fiction from a quote she offers.

Here is the quote:

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” 
Henry Ford

My offering is below and you can find Patricia’s other contributors at the underlined link above.

I Could Not Couldn’t Do It

By JE Lillie

I have known moments in this journey when I was certain I couldn’t do it. I have wanted to pack my bags and leave so many times. I suppose no one would blame me if I did.

When I was about ten we had this wealthy neighbor. Her name was Anna. At the time, I thought she was about two hundred years old but she was only about sixty. My difficulty with telling her age wasn’t that I was afflicted with the “old person ceiling”, which makes young people think everyone over twenty-five is ancient. Anna’s life made her old before her time. Somewhere along the way she had begun to medicate  the pains of her heart with whiskey, but it didn’t work to heal what was broken on the inside. Each year found Anna a bit older and a lot meaner.

Anna needed a maid having lost the will to clean for herself. My mother took the job. I was young but not so young that I couldn’t see the toll it took on Mom. Many times she came home from Anna’s in tears.

I suppose had my father been alive he would have told my mother to quit the job and that would have been it. But life had a lesson to teach me in Dad’s absence so Mom kept working at Anna’s, if for no other reason than to teach me that you cannot give up on people.

Mom never complained about the work. She never missed a day. Anna never got better but that wasn’t because Mom didn’t try. When Anna had her first stroke Mom began working more to make sure Anna ate like she was supposed to. I don’t know exactly when I realized it but at some point I came to the knowledge that Mom was not working for Anna because of the paycheck. Mom worked for Anna because she loved her.

After Anna died people met Mom at the funeral and called her a saint for “putting up with Anna”. Many told her that for years they had been concerned because they felt Mom was trapped in the job. Invariably they asked her why she had stayed and reminded her that she could have at any point just said that she couldn’t do it anymore.

To this day I can still remember Mom’s response. “Anna needed help whether she wanted it or not. I thought about quitting once and that week Father Sweeney preached a message I shall never forget from Philippians 4:13 called,”I Could Not Couldn’t Do it.” After hearing that sermon I just couldn’t say I couldn’t help, because really I could.”

I think about this story everyday as I am helping Mom out of bed, as I am getting her dressed and brushing her teeth, as I am helping her on the toilet or helping her in the shower. Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease. It feels like it is beyond me, but I could not couldn’t do this. Thank you Father Sweeney.

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In Other Words: When the Pillars Shook

In Other Words

This post is in response to Patricia’s Quote Challenge/ In Other Words.

Patricia’s contributors are asked to take a quote and from it create a post of our own.

This week’s quote is:

“When they discover the center of the universe, 
a lot of people will be disappointed to discover they are not it.”
Bernard Bailey

When the Pillars Shook

by JE Lillie

Uzziah was gone! He may have been a leper. He may have been a fool. But he was my king and more than that he was my friend. I wept for days until the tears would come no more and then I sealed myself in my chamber.

I tried to pray. I arose every morning to the Shema. It had never been just words before but now words were all I had left, vain repetitions, little more than the chanting the pagans did in their temples. I  felt guilt. I felt anger. I felt abandoned.

For months I struggled on like this. The Great King was silent. I snivelled my prayers day by day growing weaker in faith stronger in blame. Grimly I thought to myself, “And so ends the great prophet.”

It was a morning like every other. We were nearing Sukkot. I arose feeling no great joy in the upcoming celebration. I began to mumble the words of the prayer as I had every morning since my bar mitzvah.

“Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Achad.”

Something stirred beneath my feet. I looked down to see what I had stepped on that had unsteadied my stance.

” Barukh Sheim k’vod malkhu…”

And the world as I knew it was suddenly gone. It was as if a curtain had been pulled back tearing away the darkness of my room. I was in the temple or a place that looked like the temple. The air was filled with the thick smoke of incense. A fire burned on the altar of incense and behind that stood the Great Ark unveiled

I grasped my chest and inhaled violently in fear as I realized I was looking on the forbidden place. I covered my eyes but the smoke came alive and ripped my hands from before my face even as the pillars of the temple began to convulse.

The doors to the Holy place flung open and Adonai entered. His train was the smoke and the smoke was his train. It encircled Him like a shield and His eyes were the fire. Every step of His was an earthquake and every movement the explosion of a thousand suns. I was blind but could see more clearly than ever before. I stood at attention before him quivering and at the same time was prostrate on the floor shrieking.

“V’ahav’ta eit Adonai Elohekah b’khol…”

My words were drowned out by the shuddering of the walls about me as The Nameless One gathered himself to His throne atop the mercy seat. The golden cherubim came to life and spread their wings as four creatures more alive than anything on Earth cried with the voices of a thousand waterfalls, “HOLY!”

All my dry dust prayers blew away in the sound and the fury that was Heaven and I cried,

“Woe is me! I am undone!”

Of course I wasn’t really. The angel came and burned away my wickedness with fire from the altar and instead of dying I was commissioned.

One thing I have learned is that life will last as long as we shake in time with the pillars of that temple rather than trying to walk to our own rhythm.

In Other Words: Knowing My Place

In Other Words

I am writing another bit here at “In Other Words” from this week’s awesome quote from Patricia

“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth.
We are all crew.”
Marshall McLuhan

~~~Spaceship Earth~~~

Please check out Patricia’s place HERE and after you have read a bit consider adding your own two cents into the mix.

Here is my piece entitled:

Photo Credit: flickr.com

Guided

by JE Lillie

When I awoke here I couldn’t move. My arms and legs were like lead weights in the ship’s heavy gravity. After months floating in the juice I had all I could do to breathe and eat never mind move.

Everything about the ship was different and scary. Gravity, light, breathing air instead of liquid and the complex language of the crew. I spent months orienting myself to the point where I could walk, feed myself again and understand what was going on.

The Captain assigned me two guides to help me train for my position on the crew. I count that fortunate. Some of my fellow newbies only got one guide assignment. Theirs was the greater learning curve. Even so guides are just that, guides. Though they start telling you everything like: when to eat, when to sleep, when to get up, by the time it comes to the really big questions like how to live out your purpose on the ship and what your position is on the ship, they can only really make suggestions.

One of my guides manages one of the ship’s many commissaries. He started training me for the work. At first I thought it would be easy. What I found out is that feeding the ship’s hungry is no small task and managing and organizing supplies is a bigger job than I am skilled for.

My other guide is a healer. She is a no nonsense woman who could push dead people back to health given the time and proper equipment. I can’t put bandages on right.

While I am not skilled in either of their professions what I have learned from them in my time aboard ship is that guidance is not so much about similarity with another person as it is about sympathy for another person. In that I have found my purpose. Soon I am to be commissioned as a ship’s counsellor.

This is a link to another great story from Josie Twoshoes http://www.josie2shoes.com/2016/01/no-free-rides.html

In Other Words: Taking the Narrow Road in 2016

In Other Words

This week I am taking some time to write a post in response to PATRICIA’S IN OTHER WORDS CHALLENGE.

The quote we are being asked to spin off of is…

“If you spend too much time thinking about
a thing you’ll never get it done.”
Bruce Lee

Find Patricia’s other contributors at the underlined link above:

Here is my post:

Taking the Narrow Road

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by JE Lillie

Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Ma. 7:13,14

They say “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

While I will take the word of Jesus over the word of “They” any day, I think in this case both Jesus and “They” are talking about the same thing, at least in some respects.

The “wide gate and the broad road” are the “road to Hell”, one and the same. This wide broad road to Hell is filled with well-intentioned people, good people. Some of them are way better and more likable than I am. The fact remains they are on the road to Hell, a real place of real punishment.

That is because good intentions and even good behavior don’t get you to Heaven; Faith does.

Paul said, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

Later he wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life inb Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Early on in the same letter Paul revealed that the method of receiving this gift of eternal life (Heaven defined) is by faith when he wrote, the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,e just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”Romans 1:17

Jesus himself said faith was the key when he stated, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son John 3:16-18

Over the course of my life as a minister I have asked thousands of people to put their faith in Jesus and follow Him. Some have rushed to embrace Jesus as their living hope.  More however waved me off saying things like:

“I’m just not convinced yet.”

“If God will prove Himself to me first then I will believe Him.”

“I tried Jesus once. It didn’t work.”

“I have a lot of things I want to do first. Religion will come later.”

One man even said to me…

“If I have to accept Jesus to go to Heaven I am perfectly happy to go to Hell.”

Most of these people (even the guy who said he was happy to go to Hell) were people I liked, were people I would want to know for eternity. Most of these people were filled with lots of good intentions even in the midst of what I considered their misguided priorities.

But all those intentions are “wide-road” mentalities, earthly mindsets that will fade with their lives unless they do the one thing which can put them on the narrow road. That one thing is putting faith, hope, focus, love and life energy into following Jesus. Nothing else matters until that commitment is made.

Maybe as 2016 dawns on your life you are wavering over the Jesus decision. To you I give Bruce Lee’s warning as the New Year begins.

“If you spend too much time thinking about
a thing you’ll never get it done.” Bruce Lee

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Will 2016 be the year you begin to trust Jesus as your God?

In Other Words: Take It Out On the Tree

This piece is written in response to Patricia’s IN OTHER WORDS CHALLENGE. You can check out the other posts in the challenge by clicking on the underlined link and following the little blue frog.

In Other Words

The quote of the week is…

“The Christmas tree is the dot on the “i”.”
Frank Taylor

Take It Out On the Tree

By JE Lillie

Things that send you over the deep end. Straws that break camels’ backs. Mole hills that become mountains. It’s the story of my life!

It is never life’s tragedies that break my spirit. I can handle the heart attacks, the sudden deaths and the out-of-nowhere divorces. Personal bankruptcy or the thought of national economic collapse don’t even make me bat an eye.

But let me burn the rolls for the turkey dinner or let the cat knock down the Christmas tree and break just one glass bulb, suddenly my world is coming to an end. I am ranting and screaming. I threaten the cat with a tennis racket future. I promise certain death to anyone at the table who might comment on the state of the dinner rolls.

Christmas is never ruined by the caskets or the court cases. It’s the slanted star and the broken bulbs that set me off. I spend more time grumbling at the Christmas tree than commiserating with the relatives who are screwing up their lives. Maybe that is the point! If I yell at the tree or threaten the cat, if I burn the rolls to a crisp they can’t yell back. The Christmas tree is a safe place to put my anger, my fury at how others are messing up the holiday. That means it’s not about the tree at all. The broken bulb is just a stand in for the brokenness around me, the brokenness I feel I cannot address because it’s Christmas after all. It’s supposed to be a season of peace on earth, good will to men.

I leave you with a thought this Christmas. If the people around you are just plain ruining the holiday for you, stay sweet. Smile when the family’s around and in your private times take it out on the tree!

The Something In the Nothing

In Other Words

Take a gander at Patricia’s Place and tell us your story IN OTHER WORDS

Our quote for the week, from which we are to concoct a itsy bitsy story, is

” Abundance is, in large part, an attitude.”
Sue Patten Thoele

The Something In the Nothing ( A dramatization of 2 Kings Chapter 4:1-7)

by JE Lillie

She bent to her task without a word. What was there to say? Everyone thought she was crazy.

 Miriam had called her a fool.

Havah had all but thrown her out of the house.

The widow had pleaded, “But the prophet said…”

“Prophet Smophet! You dim beggar take the bowls and go. What use have I for them when my husband and sons are dead at the hands of those Moabite pigs? But don’t you dare talk to me about a God who treats people like this.”

She could hear Havah’s words echoing in the back of her mind as she unpacked the sack full of bowls.

She could hardly blame them. Everyone had lost someone in the raids, including her.

She pushed the thought of Azariah from her mind. The exorcism of his image took conscious effort every day but it was the only way she held on to the few strands of faith she had left.

The widow plunked the bowls and vials onto her table. She lined the window sills and edges of the room with all the containers she had collected from her doubting neighbors. At last, when she was finished arranging the hodge podge collection of vessels, the prophet stepped into the room.

She thought he would wave his walking stick or utter some magic words.

Instead he nodded almost imperceptibly, smiled and said, “That’s a lot of pots.”

The widow began to pour from her tiny decanter. By sunset every bowl, vessel, pot and vial was full of oil.

In Other Words: Finishing The Island Lady

In Other Words

Here is a new challenge I am taking over at Patricia’s Place. You can participate by going to…

http://patriciasplace.me/2015/02/11/13074/

Patricia has given us a quote and has asked us to write a new piece between 250 and 500 words.

Here is the quote and my newest story

Where there is great love, there are always miracles.”
Willa Cather

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Finishing the Island Lady

By JE Lillie

Andre was determined to make his mark on the world. His parents were even more determined that their son would succeed in his ambition. The family moved out of the tenements in lower Cleghorn when Andre was five and  found a low rent apartment in a nearby suburb. It meant commuting in a beat up old truck for Andre’s father and working in the Dollar Store for his mother but they considered the sacrifice for their son worth it all.

Andre was no genius in the classroom but there was nothing the boy couldn’t create with a paintbrush. The word “prodigy” was tossed around throughout Andre’s high school career. That and a dozen blue ribbons from around the state and a full scholarship to the Boston School of the arts made him a shoe in as one of Massachusetts up and coming artists in gallery shows around the Commonwealth.

But Andre’s mark was bigger than a name on a canvas, bigger than money in the bank. When the boy started teaching art classes at the Boys and Girls club in Lower Cleghorn he knew he had come home. He trained a dozen young men and women in the art of painting.

For his Senior project he got permission from the City to begin painting murals over several of the graffitied walls in the center. Andre was warned of the danger of painting over gang tags. When he was interviewed he told the papers he was not challenging anyone’s authority, that his only goal was to revive a love for beauty in the downtrodden village called Cleghorn.

The gang’s did not see his work as beautiful. They shot and killed Andre on a Wednesday as he was finishing the outline of a mural he called, Island Lady.

Andre’s memorial service was held at the site of the outlined portrait. A hundred artists from around the state agreed to finish the Island Lady and to paint over every tag in the city as tribute to one of their own. The broken heart of love can breed anger. Used right that anger becomes resolve. When resolve meets hope and hope meets God that opens the way for many miracles.