Sunday, July 20, 2014

Traveling Mercies

Yesterday, my husband and I drove to Nashville, about 5 hours from our home, to meet my daughter who was arriving on the Megabus from Louisville. There are Megabus routes to and from Louisville, and there are Megabus routes to and from Memphis, but there is no point at which these routes meet, so Nashville is the closest she could get.

This is where the Megabus drops people off in Nashville.

Across the street

so you can understand why I wanted to make sure we were there when the bus arrived.

Of course, I knew from experience that we would probably end up waiting, and wait we did for over an hour. The lot was filled with cars full of people who were also waiting. In the car next to us was a family from Murfreesboro, TN, an older couple and two mid-30ish men. After a while, I got to talking with the older man. He was very thin and pale with a black cowboy hat, a cross hanging from his neck, and a fancy belt buckle. His wife, sitting across from me in the car, was fairly heavy and both of them looked like they had had a very hard life. They were there to pick up somebody on the bus from Chicago and then they were all driving to Atlanta.

Before very long, they began to tell me about the mercy of the Lord--how He is the God of second chances, and how good He had been to them. The man (I never knew their names.) told me about how they had been in a head-on collision in their old car but as soon as he knew no one was hurt, he started thanking God for His traveling mercies because it didn't matter that the car was destroyed because the car was immaterial next to life. 

Then they were without a car for three months, but a preacher had told them that if they planted a seed, God would make it grow in 3 months. So, they planted a seed and 90 days later, they got this 2013 car--the newest car he'd ever had. Not only that, but they had been living in a place that you wouldn't believe for the past 3 years. Previous to that, the wife had prayed for someplace to live even if it was a shack, and, said he, "You better watch what you pray for because you might get it." About the time they got the car, though, the Lord got them a one-room apartment, and they were happy as they could be. They were about to start working in their church, he teaching the young kids, and she in the nursery, and the Lord had blessed them with traveling mercies that day, and he would pray for them for us, too.

Encounters like this continually humble me. I sometimes think of myself as having had a difficult life--we frequent lived fairly close to the edge financially--but it was never anything like the penury these people have experience. I wonder why I am so blessed in so many ways, and it makes me feel like God must expect a lot from me in consequence of this. It's a little scary.

And also, their faith humbles me. I have had a fairly good education and I've read quite a bit of theology, and I can discuss little thorny details of the Faith, but these people just believe. I'm sure there's technically a good bit of error in their belief system, but I'm sure it does not matter a whit. They are grateful and they know Who they are grateful to, and they are filled with a degree of innocent trust that I'm sure I will never attain.

Finally, the buses arrived and we waited for the passengers to disembark. I began to worry that they might be holding them for ransom. While we stood around the parking lot, I struck up a conversation with a woman from another car, and then Bill told me that someone else, a young black man in his late 20s, needed our help to jump-start his car, he would come help direct me while I moved the car into position as soon as he got his cell phone back from another man who was borrowing it. 

While I was sitting in the car after having maneuvered it onto the sidewalk, I was thinking about how 2 or 3 years ago, I would have been terrified at the idea of sitting in that parking lot for an hour. I would never have gotten out of the car or talked to the other people there. And how much I would have missed.


Monday, July 14, 2014


I don't know what is the matter with them. Sometimes if you try more than once, you can get it to work. I've taken to copying my comments before I send them in case I have to try again--and again.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mud, Mark Twain, and Myth

I have to begin with this boat. The movie begins with these boys, Ellis and Neckbone, and this boat in the tree. A boat which is, we soon discover, stamped in mud with the sign of the cross.

The boys, of course, lose no time in boarding the boat and claiming it for their own, but they soon find evidence that someone has been there before them. That someone is Mud, wearing a shirt with the eye of a wolf sewn in it for protection, a tattoo of a snake down his right arm, and a cross made of nails in the heel of shoe. He's in danger, and on the run, but he's waiting. Waiting for a beautiful woman with bird tattoos on her hands, a woman who saved his life when he was bitten by a snake. Juniper.

I first became aware of the the movie Mud when I saw a poster for it at the theatre where I went to see To the Wonder. At the time, I don't think I more than noticed it, but when someone commented on a blog that it was the, "Best film consciously set in the South that I've seen in a long time," I filed it away for future reference. 

I don't have much time to watch movies nowadays, and when I do have the time, I usually prefer to read, so it's taken me over a year to get around to Mud. A couple of weeks ago while I was on vacation, I finally sat down and watched it, and I enjoyed it very much. It was a good story, the characters were well-drawn, and the actors did a great job. And that was about all I thought about it until later.

After a while, I started thinking about Mud and why he was named Mud. And I got thinking about how the Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground. And here was this man named Mud living alone in the woods with a snake on his arm to remind him, "... to watch out for the snake," and waiting for this woman from whom he had been separated. "Hmmm," I thought, "that's kind of interesting." And the more I thought, the more Bible references and types there seemed to be from beginning to end.

There is this boat. There is a man who has no parents that anyone remembers, not even Mud. There is a sort of garden, the kind of garden that you might find east of Eden if it were in the rural American South and had been left untended for, say, fifteen and half minutes.There is an enigmatic, fatherly figure who raised Mud as much as he was ever raised, and who is removed from the community, but who is observing what goes on. There are snakes. There is a redemptive act. There is a sort of Baptism. There is a rescue by boat.

And there is a woman. When I thought about the woman, it seemed as she was not the best type of Eve--maybe Lilith--maybe a combination between the two. Tom, the fatherly figure, says of Juniper that, "She’d bed down with the meanest snake she could find, then when things went bad she’d go runnin’ to Mud."

After thinking about all this for a while, and deciding I would write this post, and what I would write in this post, I thought I'd go looking around the internet to see if there was any indication that anyone connected with Mud would mention the biblical aspects of the movie. I wasn't too surprised to see that there wasn't. 

What I found most often was that Mud was a coming of age film. An article in The Guardian  says, 
It's a film that wears its influences on its sleeve: this "big ol' story", as [director Jeff] Nichols calls it, is Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn rewritten for modern times. Nichols is happy to acknowledge it. "I first read Tom Sawyer when I was in 8th grade, 13 years old. I realised since that Mark Twain just bottled what it felt like to be a child. I wanted to check back in with that and see what a modern-day boy on the river is like."
In another interview, Nichols says, that he was making a getaway film but stumbled backwards into making a coming of age film. So, "this 'big ol' story,' but not The Story.

Several times I have come across movies, books, and even one ballet, in which biblical or specifically Christian references or analogies--sometimes very profound and beautiful--seemed very obvious to me, and yet it also seemed obvious that there was nothing in the creator's knowledge or experience to account for them. It makes me wonder. Is the Story of our Fall and Redemption written so deep in the nature of all things that it seeps through unsuspected? We see it pre-figured in ancient texts, so it must be. It reminds me of Tolkien's On Fairy Stories.

I did finally find a blog post in First Things which mentions the biblical analogy. The author, Carl Scott, is mostly writing about misogyny in the movie. I very much noticed this myself, although it's not something I consciously look for. And a few other good blog posts from Scott and Peter Lawler on the movie here, here, and here. There is some comparison of Mud and one of my favorite recent movies, True Grit going on in their blogs, too.


Thursday, July 10, 2014


One day I was praying in church and I said to the Lord, "You can't imagine how much I love you." Then I thought, "Well, that's a really stupid thing to say. He knows exactly how much I love Him better than I do." And then, this is what came into my head, "You are the imagination of My Love for you." 

And so are you.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014


I'm pretty busy going back and forth to work and the hospital, so I thought I'd post a few pictures of some clouds I saw a couple of weeks ago. Of course, the pictures are woefully inadequate to show what I really saw, but they are kind of nice. This is a two-lane country road, but thank goodness they have built an extra lane in front of a housing development that got started, but stopped cold when the bottom fell out of the housing market. This made it possible for me to pull over and walk up and down the road taking pictures without risking my life--not that I haven't risked my life to take pictures for you before, but it's nice not to have to. Remember to click on them once to enlarge them. They look much better, I think.

I love the moon in this one. I didn't even realize it was there until I'd taken the picture.

I wish I could describe the way these clouds look. The big one on the right, just over the horizon, was glowing with a turquoise light.

Before I got to the country road, when I was still on the expressway, there was a full double rainbow running parallel to the road. The lower rainbow was one of the brightest I've ever seen. Sorry I was to big of wimp to take a picture. If it had been in front of the car, I might have done it, but on the side, it looked to risky.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Once More Unto the Breach

For those of you who don't already know, my mother broke her hip last night. She had surgery today and did well, and her prognosis is good. Still, we could use your prayers. Thanks.