Monday, November 16, 2015

Tribute to a Mayan named Mario

 Marcia Moston
The notation on the yellowing page in my Guatemala photo album reads: Dear Mario—a little goofy, a little blind, a lot loved. Mario (go figure a Mayan boy with the name Mario) latched onto us when we first arrived in his village in Guatemala many years ago.

Although he didn’t understand English, he always seemed to know when Bob was goofing and making up silly words. Mario stuck close to our daughter’s side and served as her protector when she went about the village or the home for orphans. My last memory of him as a boy was when he held the gate open for us, tears streaming down his face, as we drove out of the highland village of San Andres Sajcabaja for what we thought was the last time.

Last week Mario died in a bus accident in Quiche.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Help is on the way

Marcia Moston

 I thought it was unfortunate I didn’t have a problem that day. Otherwise I might have thanked the voice in the self-checkout machine at the supermarket for her encouraging words. Maybe taken them as being prophetic.

Unlike the woman on my GPS who launches into a frantic litany of commands before having a robotical breakdown if I veer from her directions, the checkout machine voice remained calm and collected. 

“Help is on the way,” she said after twice telling me to please put the item in the bag. I had already put the item in bag, but had tried to rearrange things so the milk wouldn’t sit on top of the tomato, which I had unwittingly put in first, but you can’t disturb the weight once it’s on the scale, and so I waited for my help to arrive—a young girl with her key card that set things in order again.

“Help is on the way.” The voice played in my mind throughout the day, reminding me of times I desperately needed to hear those words.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The corner hoarders, creativity and Bob

Marcia Moston

Have you ever noticed how so many houses on street corners belong to junk collectors? How you can be driving down a perfectly pleasant road, thinking to yourself, I wouldn’t mind living out here, and then you come to the house anchoring the corner. You know the place—the one with the bathtub and old tires and car hood from the 70s tossed alongside crumbling concrete lawn ornaments and tumbled over plastic swing sets. At first I thought this to be a phenomena of the countryside, but then I remembered George.

George had a sprawling corner lot in Islip Terrrace, a tidy neighborhood on Long Island. You had to walk by George’s fenced yard to get to the main street. Of course, you couldn’t help looking at the mounds of broken, rusting treasures George had somehow not only managed to find, but to haul back home. If George saw you looking over his fence, he’d yell and mutter something unintelligible, and chase you away. There’d be no coveting George’s precious possessions.

I am not a gatherer of the unnecessary, so when we moved to our own colonial on a corner in northwest Jersey, I had no reason to suspect we’d contribute to the corner collectors.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Searching for Messiah: A Jewish Man's Testimony

Like the light of dawn that rapidly dispels the darkness, God can change the trajectory of our past--our upbringing as well as our own actions--and direct a whole new future that affects our children and all those, even thousands, whose lives intersect ours. 

I love NY Times best selling author Joel Rosenberg's story of coming to faith and his parents' testimony and willingness to see truth. Look at the impact of that decision and take heart about what God has done and will do in your own lives, your family's and who knows who else’s. I doubt Rosenberg knew just how much his coming to the Messiah would impact his Jewish heritage and influence millions.

I recommend his encouraging post about his own recognition of the Savior and the surge in interest among Jewish people today about who Jesus is. What a reminder that even if the whole world turns against Israel, God is on the scene changing hearts. He will have the last word and the final victory.

"When my father, who was raised an Orthodox Jew in Brooklyn, discovered in 1973 — after a  careful study of the Gospel According to Luke — that Jesus of Nazareth is the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, and received the Messiah by faith, my father thought he was one of the first Jews in history who believed this. He had never met a Jewish believer in Jesus. He had never heard of  such a person. And in 1973, there were fewer than 2,000 Jewish people on the planet who were  followers of Jesus.

But today, some 300,000 Jews around the world are followers of Jesus. And millions of Jews are searching for the Messiah and thus reading the Hebrew prophecies . . ." 

In the joy of the Lord,

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Rooting for the Wrong Guy—Meditations and Musings

Marcia Moston

Did you ever find yourself feeling bad for the wrong guy? Not just the hunky bank robbers in the movies that you feel sorry for when they get caught, but the ones in the Bible? Like God was being a bit harsh and maybe even unfair?

I mean who wouldn’t complain if someone who worked for only an hour, like the laborer in Matthew 20, but got paid the same as you did for working all day? Or if your sister spent the day chatting with the guests and left you to do the cooking? (Luke 10) Fine to tell me she’s made the best choice, but everybody wants to eat, don’t they? Or if the crazy homeless guy holed up down the street suddenly got healed at the expense of two thousand of your pigs. (Mark 5) It’s great that guy’s got a new life, but you’re out of business—to say nothing about the environmental disaster at the foot of the cliff.

If you’ve ever wondered what Jesus was up to, you’re in good company.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Memoir: Memories Lost and Found

Marcia Moston

September means back to school for me too, as I begin my fall workshops on memoir at the OLLI center on the Furman campus. For many of us who have now reached the front of the line, with no parents left ahead to buffer our illusion of immortality, assessing where we’ve been and what we’ve done plays as big a part as figuring our what we’re going to do.

I don’t think looking back is a maudlin activity, but rather a chance to sort out some things for ourselves and to pass on a legacy for those we love. At the very least it’s an opportunity to let the kids and grandkids know we actually were young once.

One way to stir up filed-away, but not forgotten, moments is to go through old pictures.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

What to do with Mom on the mantle

“So what do you want me to do with you when you die?” My daughter looked worried about the prospect of having Mom-on-the-mantle forever because we hadn’t discussed this delicate issue.

Assuming I’d be cremated, I said, “You could plant me. Plant a tree and rim it with me.”
At first she liked this idea but then her countenance quickly clouded. “But then I couldn’t ever move—unless it was an indoor tree—and it didn’t die.”

I could see her point. No kid wants to be guilty of abandoning the parents they love, even though it’s just their ashes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Daniel and the Stupid Bird

Finally. It was The Day I promised myself time to laze in the pool and sit in the gazebo with a totally engaging no-think book and icy drink. I had been so energized to clean our house and yard after our daughter, son-in-law, and dogs moved into their own home (they were with us five months) that instead of waiting for my husband to come home, I hauled things way too heavy for me—like pressure washers and a 50-pound, round glass tabletop that I could barely get my arms around enough to lift back on the base. My determined stubbornness had gotten the job done inside and out, including painting three decks, but now my body, splattered with black and blue marks was in need of a serious recharge.

I set my book and drink on the stand, puffed up the lounge chair cushions, and reached up to turn the fan on. Suddenly there was a flapping and thrashing in the peak of the gazebo. A bird was batting against the sides of the rafters. Thinking the draft from the fan was too much for it, I turned the fan off. The stunned bird settled on a side rafter. I settled in my chair. Although it was fairly big, I realized the bird was a young robin. Its red belly feathers were just coming in, much like a teenage boy’s chin fuzz.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

When you can't own the house on the hill, meet the person who does

Certainly I had no idea words C.S. Lewis used to describe his childhood in the big house his father built would end up being a quirky connection for me from the Lord.

I put Lewis’s sentence on the overhead screen: I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences . . . and told the participants in my memoir class to use it as a model to describe a place from their lives.

The room was quiet as a dozen or so heads bent over paper and iPads. As students took turns reading their pieces, we were transported to ocean beaches, arid deserts, exotic cities, and sad farewell places. One woman captured our attention with her nostalgic description of sunsets over long mountain views and generations of family spilling over sweeping lawns. It was so lovely, I asked her where she lived.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

When your husband has too much time and you have none

You know it’s time to come out from that pile of books you’ve been behind for the past three weeks when your husband, in all seriousness, wonders about shooting them. Not because he’s annoyed, mind you, but curious. He’s been left to himself too much, I think.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

When they die without us

Leave. They all do that. Some indiscriminately—young, old and in between. Some at the most inconvenient times, like when you’ve just boarded the cruise ship for your long-deserved vacation or have just begun to teach the seven-week family relationships series you committed to. It’s then you get the news the one you’d previously postponed these things for has died.

Some slip off accommodatingly so—politely leaving while you keep watch. Maybe they couldn’t hold out any longer and resigned themselves to “I hate to go off like this while you’re feeling so glum and all, but I really can’t hold on any longer.” Or maybe they just give up and say,” OK, you insist on being here—know I love you—and now, good-bye.”

I’ve heard they don’t like to go if you’re hanging on, which makes me sad about my mom’s passing because several of us siblings slept in her room around the clock. I didn’t expect her to live but I wanted to be with her when she left. One of my favorite authors, Abigail Thomas, in her memoir, Three Dog Life, expressed it this way: “We were afraid to leave him. It was as if we were trying to hatch an egg. Keeping him warm with our presence.”

 Finally, after weeks of watching, I stood at the foot of mom's bed and said to everyone, I can’t take it anymore. I’m going home.” My sister-in-law-nurse said, “Wait a minute, it won’t be long.” So I waited and rubbed those so-many-times-stubbed and-broken toes sticking out from the sheets and she left. Just like that. No fanfare. No angels’ wings batting. No clouds of glory.

But I knew, she knew.

So just now, my friend called to say her husband had died the minute she left to go for lunch. After weeks with him, changing bedpans and propping him up to eat, and holding her breath with his every prolonged nap, and experimenting with every alternative application for colloidal silver she could find because everyone else had given up, he up and left when she was a mile down the road.

She wondered about this. Felt bad. Thing is. I know he loved her. He was secure in her love for him. Recognized her fierce dedication to helping him live.

So why did he go off without her?

Was love too strong a line that he couldn’t break free?

I don’t know. Won’t even pretend to know.
But this I think: We want this life to be our all. We want this to be our reality.

But it isn’t. My mom knew it. My friend knew it. I know it. I want to impress my children with it.

Jesus rose from the dead. I expect to too.

My faith embraces a life beyond. But I need to make it real. Make it mine.

If I died tomorrow, I would say, in spite of the tough childhood family scene, in spite of the self-centered, culture-believing lies I’ve lived… I have been redeemed, and I have had a great

No regrets, unless that maybe someone I mistreated wouldn’t know how much I wish their forgiveness.

I write this, and I hope I can grasp it so firmly that it is my reality. When I leave this body, I will be with God forever. Think about this next week.



Monday, March 23, 2015

Finding creativity when your house is full and your mind is blank

Next month I will take part in a presentation on creativity. This is ironic because the most creative thing I’ve done in weeks is switch out one of my usually plain outfits with a combination I thought was more modern—a choice my daughter tactfully suggested I reconsider.

Creativity, according to one author, thrives in messy and unusual environments, unlike logical, analytical thought that prefers order. But I beg to differ.

During the months after my father-in law died and our nest was empty again, I fell into the pleasant routines of walking the dog, writing, and working at leisure. While luxuriating in so much free time, I signed on to teach several workshops, all of which are happening this spring.

But empty bedrooms beg occupants as zealously as nature fills a vacuum. Needing a place to stay while they were selling their house, my daughter, her husband, and their two dogs moved in. And although we are all getting on notably well (except for our dog who’s clearly not happy to share her pack) my ability to hold a thought longer than one sentence long has fled.

It’s an art, I think—that ability to focus in the throes of interruptions. For example, as I sit here trying to grapple with a thought or two, my husband comes in, sits down to put his shoes on, and asks if I think he’d make a good king. I don’t even want to follow up that conversation, so I roll my eyes and get out another sentence before the guest German shepherd starts whining to go out, and my daughter comes down and wants to chat.

My first inclination is to blame my inattentiveness on getting older—a suspicion that was fostered during a recent trip up North. Since we were arriving at midnight, I booked a room in a hotel that was supposed to be about a mile from the airport. While we waited for the cab, most of the other passengers disappeared into the dark, wintery New Hampshire night.

Finally, a tiny yellow car pulled up. The driver hopped out. Although the wind chill must have been hovering in the teens and snow banks lined the road, he wore a baseball cap (on backwards), a bulky Bobby Orr hockey jacket, and shorts. He popped the trunk and directed us to put our luggage on top of the spare tire and jack occupying the dirty, narrow space.

Another man emerged from the shadows, slid into the front seat, and we were off. Our driver chatted about this and that—said he “couldn’t complain about anything because no one would listen anyway.” The man in the front seat said nothing. We drove out of the airport straight into rural blackness. No street lights, hotels, diners, or other establishments typically near airports. Five minutes . . . ten minutes . . .. Not a creature was stirring, not a speck of light.

Now I begin to wonder. I wonder if I’ve called the right hotel. I wonder about the silent man in the front seat and the odd driver wearing shorts on a freezing night. Movies with places like the Bates Motel surface in my mind. “I thought the hotel was a mile from the airport,” I say.

The backward baseball cap in front of me bobs. “Well, I guess you could say that—as the crow flies, (ha ha). But there’s no way to get there directly from here.”

I glanced at Bob and squeezed his hand. Several minutes and miles later we arrived at the hotel. Relieved it was just a quirky cab ride, and I hadn’t misread the hotel information in some senile booking moment, but had, indeed, gotten us a king room at a great price, we took our keys and approached the door, right off the lobby.

The tub-less shower and low hanging closet bars were the first clues.
I had reserved the elderly-friendly, handicap-accessible room.

As far as I’m concerned, the jury’s still out whether creativity thrives in disorder, but this I know: by the grace of God my body doesn’t need wheel-in showers and low-lying appliances, but my mind needs order. Hats off to those who can write and think and create while tending children and fending off distractions. 

I love my company and their canines, but I know my limits. So I've walked the dog, kissed the husband, and fled to library where I hope to create and concentrate in peace and quiet—or, at least, say hello to those of you stopping by.

Blessings abundant,

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Where was their high tower?

Where was the place the righteous run to and are safe, according to Proverbs 18:12? We pray for safety, for help on icy roads, for health and healing and hope that so many of the verses of Scripture seem to promise, as well we should. But what happens when senseless tragedy strikes anyway? Doesn’t God’s word work?

Do martyrs see what Stephen saw—“the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” Does the Holy Spirit fill them so they can say, “Lord, do not hold this against them”?

Friday, February 13, 2015

When silence isn't golden

Jefferson's Bible
Cut and paste. Long before Microsoft, man was fashioning his own version of morals without the miracles, good without God. When Thomas Jefferson didn’t agree with biblical “interpreters,” (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John among them) he simply cut their words out and then painstakingly pasted together the parts he agreed with. Voilà! A Bible he could believe in.

Seems the “cut” part is still a popular method of promoting a philosophy or worldview today. A school district in Florida is under scrutiny for having students recite Islamic prayers and use textbooks that cover Islam in depth but that have “mistakenly” left out the pages on Christianity and Judaism. This district is not alone. All over the country Islam is being introduced in public schools as if it were the latest fashionable thing for the enlightened to learn.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The little things. They're a big deal

After driving for over seven hours, we are stopped in a mile-long jam, a half-hour short of home. I am thankful we’d made a bathroom stop not long before. And I am especially thankful that the sirens squeezing by on the shoulder of these three lanes of trucks and cars are not coming for me. I send up a prayer for whoever is the object of this commotion and settle in for the wait.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

God's Fingerprint| Part 12

 Numbers have always escaped me. I was the one who could learn Latin faster than algebra, who spent college afternoons trying to grasp a math problem when everyone else was at a football game, the one who rounds her checkbook off so she doesn't have to deal with pesky odd numbers. But I recognize Majesty when I see it! This is lovely, and yes, awesome because it reflects an awesome God.

So for today...enjoy, worship and be blessed


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Words I wished I had written, but glad I've read

Marcia Moston

I stare at the new journal, pages blanker than a Vermont meadow after a snowfall, on the table next me. Every January 1st morning, this is my dilemma: what word, what wisdom, what prayer, petition or thanksgiving will be the first I commit to these pages.

Oh, that life would be so tough, you say!

I know, it’s a writer thing, and I am thankful that’s the extent of my dilemmas this morning, but here’s why it means so much to me.

I can easily be an info addict, a glutton for useless information, enamored by the sound of an idea, lured into learning about all kinds of things (did you know Japanese first-graders work at solving puzzles 40% longer than American ones?) rather than doing anything.

So before I start listing any intentions and resolutions for this next 584 million miles about the sun,