The Cloud of Witnesses

This evening, in Mass, Jane Frances climbed wildly on the pew while the older four children tried to ignore her. She was aware of the ignoring, and set about fighting it. Jane is potty training, and must always use the potty during church. When I took her to the restroom for the second time, I somehow managed to tear the side of her Pull-Up irreparably, leaving her bare-bottomed and unladylike, which sent the other children into giggle fits.

Mass is often offered for the repose of the soul of someone who has recently passed. We pray for our loved ones who have gone and for those who will soon die. My Grandmother Joyce is among these; she has end-stage lung cancer and expects just a few more months. I pray for her the best I can while the children sniffle and giggle around and on top of me. As I look at the little ones, I am struck by how much my prayer has shifted over the past year. As a younger mom, I often prayed for protection. Many times, it didn’t come through—or, at least, not as I thought of protection. Now I pray for the strength I’ll need when inevitable losses come my way.

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Hiking, or The Reason to Abuse a Left Knee

A few years ago, my wife decided to give me a birthday present in the form of abandonment in the wilderness. To be clear, this was what I wanted. My version of a vacation is fairly Spartan. Give me a sleeping bag, a hammock, a tarp, and some basic necessities, and leave me to wander. This is distinctly different from my mother’s version of camping, which involves things with agitators—a washing machine, a hot tub, and cable television, for example.

My sweet wife dropped me off at Cosby Campground, where Cosby Creek churns down a mountain gully in fresh cascades of whitewater. The trail from there to Low Gap averages a thirteen percent grade. I was newly thirty-two years old. Surely sixty additional pounds up a mountain posed no problem.

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What the World Needs Now

Editor’s note: We are excited to welcome Wade Bibb to Foundling House. Wade is the Senior Pastor at Central Baptist Bearden in Knoxville and a one-time professor of religion at Carson-Newman University. He is also an avid runner and is in such great shape that the rest of us wonder about our own efforts at exercise. Furthermore, he does not drink coffee, yet still manages to get things accomplished.

I am not a mother.

I have a mother. I’m married to a mother, but I am not a mother. I have seen the job and the responsibilities, and I don’t want to be a mother. Actually, I’m a little a bit afraid of most mothers. It’s as if, once they have raised children, they know there’s nothing else that can ever really scare them.

I’m not a mother, and it isn’t just a biological issue—I know I can’t do the job. One Sunday morning, while we were getting ready for church, my wife told our daughter Emily, five-years-old at the time, to go pick out what she wanted to take to church. Emily picked out four little horses to keep herself quiet and pacified. I told her that was a lot and that she might just need to take two of them. Not sure about the instructions here mother had given, I said, “Let’s go ask mommy what she thinks.” Emily said, “Yeah, you don’t know anything do you.”

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All the Montessori Books

By sheer luck or perfect providence or simple coincidence, the day I called the Montessori School about a job was the same day a full time assistant had quit without notice. They would be thrilled to hire me back to fill the position, the Head of School told me over the phone while my heart began to beat again. We set a start date, hung up, and I stared at the bulletin board trying to collect myself. It hung on the wall of a coffee shop in a strip mall outside town. I had driven there in a gold 1994 Honda Civic on twenty-four hour loan from the mechanic. It was December in Idaho. My car was totaled, I’d just learned I was pregnant, and I was going back to my hometown.

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Hoc est Corpus Meum

Hieronymus Bosch: The Conjurer, 1475-1480

Last week I sat in a theater in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, with my wife and four-year-old son. We were waiting for Terry Evanswood’s magic show to start and sharing a comically small box of popcorn that my wife assured me I didn’t want to know the cost of.  I was more worried, though, that my son’s attention span wouldn’t last the full hour and a half. It turned out I had nothing to worry about. He was mesmerized from the first second to the last. I spent more time watching his reactions than I did the performance.

In my son’s stunned expression, I find something that I long for, something that I believe we all long for in one degree or another—a sense of wonder. In an age and culture where the answer to virtually any question we can conceive is just a few taps and swipes away, wonder and unknowing are absent. It is one thing, however, to suspend disbelief for a couple hours to enjoy a magic show, and another to live a life believing anything blindly.

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Behind the Black Curtain

Original Photo by clickykbd, Creative Commons Usage

I sat in my car in the parking lot, waiting for the rain to stop. The sound was soothing so I sat there for close to an hour. No one noticed.

I looked at the building, arms crossed. Deciding. It had been a long time since I’d walked through those doors. Could I still call it “my church” if I hadn’t been inside in months?

Church is inside you, I thought. When the rain finally stopped, I went in.

The lights were off in the hallway and the clonkclonkclonk of my heels bounced off the painted concrete floors and thirty-foot ceilings. I almost expected eerie organ music to start playing. It felt like a scene in a horror movie. Probably not the emotion the elders hoped to evoke.

It’s cold. I thought. Cold, big, modern, church. Unfeeling. I’d always felt a bit of that in these hallways or in the classrooms; somehow all alone even when it was full of people. The only place I didn’t feel that way was backstage for the children’s theatre production.

There in the dark, behind the black curtain waiting on my cue, I had seen God. While I peeked through the thick, velvety folds at the faces of the children, he was there. In those sacred seconds stranded between my times onstage I had talked to him. Felt him.

Maybe he was here again today?

Someone had to be working or else the front door wouldn’t have been unlocked, but the building felt empty. I thought of going into the tiny closet of a prayer room, but worried about people leaving and being locked inside the church, setting off the alarm as I left. Really, really, officer, I came here to pray!” I’d say when cops swarmed the building. Would they believe me?

I opted for the “sanctuary.” Our pastor made fun of that word. We’re a rock-n-roll kind of church, not a sanctuary kind of church, but that day it felt like one to me. I sat in one of the chairs in the second row and leaned my head against the chair in front of me and started to pray. It was barely audible. My lips moved, but less than a whisper escaped them.

I remember praying, “God. Please. Please heal Molly. You can. Why haven’t you? Why haven’t you? Have you quit doing miracles? I don’t’ believe you have! Please Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. I need my sister!

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