Life and Death

Welcome to Friday Fictioneers, where every story is a surprise. We are an international community of writers who get together once a week to write flash fiction. Our lovely leader, author Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, posts the photo prompt on her blog, Addicted to Purple.

I’m glad to be back after a brief hiatus. On occasion, my muse goes missing and I have to chase after her (or him). Have I found my muse again? You be the judge! Tell me in your comments 🙂

path-dale-rogerson

Photo Copyright: Dale Rogerson

 

Life and Death

by Jan Brown

Jenny walked the long pathway. The rising sun lit the way, heating the cold stone. On each side, wondrous adventures loomed. Beautiful gardens, inviting beaches, sprawling cities. There were also darker paths with an edgy feel. Certainly riskier exploits awaited there! She longed for the exhilaration, the thrill of accomplishment.

Was she on the right path? So many choices–just like life.

Does He really have a plan for any of this? If so, Jenny wished He would just come out and tell her! But nooooooooo…He leaves it up to her to decide which path to take.

Just like life.

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…The rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.  – Luke 1:78-79

To read other Fictioneers’ stories, click the blue froggy thing:

Love Will Always Win

It’s been a month since I posted my last story. Where is my muse? Nothing creative is emanating from my mouth, my fingers, my brain.

breathless
she tries in vain to sing
nothing but darkness emerges
her voice silenced by despair
when will her muse return

Perhaps this poem that I wrote on Twitter awhile back is more appropriate for this sad, unholy week, when we are mourning the loss of 49 souls and wondering what evils lie ahead.

Purple Angel

Poem Copyright: Janet L. Brown, Image Copyright: Kerri McClellan-Fotolia.com

Many have said that it’s no longer enough to say that our thoughts and prayers are with the victims. They say it’s time for action. We can see it in the blocks-long winding line of people who volunteered to give blood in Orlando. And we can hear it in the public discourse about gun control legislation (or lack thereof).

In his  June 12th statement to the press, President Obama once again asked the country to do some “soul-searching” about the ease with which people can get assault weapons in the U.S.

We have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be.

– President Barack Obama

I wonder if we can finally agree on legislation that would ban or reduce the sale of these weapons, or at least build a database to ensure that access is limited.

A California pastor’s sermon went viral over the weekend, as you already may know, because he blamed the victims for their own deaths.

The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. I’m kind of upset he didn’t finish the job.

– Pastor Roger Jimenez, Verity Baptist Church

This is the worst kind of hate speech–words that are delivered by a pastor, who we are supposed to be able to trust! Fortunately, no one seems to agree with him. Love is stronger than hate. Love will overcome the devastation wrought by any man. Even if he has an AR-15. Even if he has a pulpit from which to spew hate. Love will always win.
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What I Want for Christmas

Magi

What I Want for Christmas

the gift of love

and health

and time

and money

not necessarily in that order

~~~

a chance to see peace

to see justice

to see the end of xenophobia

to see Donald Trump withdraw

which would, of course, be prerequisite to the above

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a fine bottle of wine

and friends to share it

a low carb Christmas dinner

a recliner to welcome my aching bones

Christmas jazz and family chats

~~~

let me hear

angels singing of good will

let me witness

modern wise men–and women–acting on faith

let the world be filled with the hope He gifted us so long ago

and loving hearts to share it

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The Nativity scene.

The Nativity scene at the Grotto in Portland

Carrying the Light

I’m late with my Friday Fictioneers contribution this week. The photo prompt, as some of you may know, is published Wednesday morning. I contemplated the ornate light fixture in the photo and copied it onto my hard drive, as usual.

Photo Copyright: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields http://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com

Photo Copyright: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

The photo reminded me of some lovely chandeliers I’ve seen in churches, but I had no idea what to write.

That night, I procrastinated and scrolled through my twitter feed instead of writing. I came across breaking stories from various news media and was horrified to learn of the vicious hate crime in Charleston, a mass shooting at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The cold-hearted shooting of a church prayer group…how do we reconcile the irony, the inhumanity?

The historic status of the church and its founder, Denmark Vesey, was mentioned in the first two articles I read. This church has suffered unthinkable losses in the past. The church was founded in 1816 by black congregants who left their predominantly white churches over issues of discrimination. It was burned down in 1822 when its pastor was convicted of planning a slave revolt. When the laws of that era prohibited all-black churches, the members had to meet in secret. The church survived all of this and was rebuilt at the end of the civil war, only to be destroyed by an earthquake in 1886. In the twentieth century, the church was the site of seminal civil rights speeches and demonstrations, including a mass arrest of more than 900 protesters in 1969.

Now they have suffered more unthinkable losses. As I read the articles and watched the news videos, two questions gnawed at me: 1) Why are we the only advanced nation to have mass shootings on a seemingly regular, if not frequent, basis; and 2) Why, in a country that has the most ethnically diverse population of any country on Earth, do we still have racial hatred? The answer to the first question is fairly obvious.  The answer to the second is so complex as to be incomprehensible, but I’m sure we’ll hear many sociologists, psychologists, journalists, pundits and random internet trolls try to break it down for us in the coming days/weeks/months.  I welcome that discussion with open ears.

Meanwhile, the only answer I have is love.

I try to wrap my head around the so-incredible level of love and forgiveness displayed by the families of the victims at the shooter’s bond hearing. No one said it better than Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of one of the victims. She spoke directly to the shooter, saying, “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love. Hate won’t win.” (Source: NBCNews.com)

Mother Emanuel will be open for Sunday services today. The light they carry into the world is witness to God’s love and to our human potential to love, rather than hurt, each other.  I hope my little poem reflects that light.

Photo by Stephen Hyatt http://photos.thechurchesoftheworld.com/Charleston-SC-Churches/Mother-Emanuel-AME/

Photo by Stephen Hyatt
Source: photos/thechurchesoftheworld.com

Carrying the Light

by Jan Brown

Why do churches have such lovely chandeliers? Perhaps…

To remind us there is something irresistibly beautiful, something higher and more permanent than our imperfect selves.

To remind us of the beauty that can shine from just one beacon, even in a world otherwise devoid of light.

To focus the still-bright light of  our lost loved ones, so that we will not flounder in the dark.

To infuse love, the kind of love that shines on every living being, the kind of love that will never falter, never flicker out, never discriminate and never be darkened, no matter how deep the night.

shooting victims

Source: NBCNews.com

Mother Emanuel’s light shines now, this very moment. I pray that everyone will let it in.

Amen.

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Friday Fictioneers is a lovely community of writers from around the world. My blog this week was a departure from the usual form. Normally we post 100-word stories based on a photo prompt provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. To read more stories of every conceivable genre, or to post your own, click here.

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Female Disciples?

Happy Easter! Christ is risen!

Noli mi Tangere, by Titian c. 1512 (Wikimedia, public domain)

Noli mi Tangere, by Titian c. 1512 (Wikimedia, public domain)

Let’s talk about the women who traveled with Jesus in His ministry.

Mary Magdalene was present at the crucifixion and burial of Christ, and at the discovery of the empty tomb three days later. She was the first to see and speak with the risen Christ.

I’ve heard it said that she was a prostitute, and popular movies such as The Last Temptation of Christ (which I otherwise loved–including the controversial dream sequence) portrayed her in this way.

NOT TRUE!

Mary Magdalene was one of several very important women in Jesus’ ministry.  She met him because she was ill and in need of healing.

According to Luke 8:1-3, Mary Magdalene, along with Joanna, Susanna, and “many other” women who had been healed, accompanied Jesus and the twelve disciples from town to town, supporting the group financially “out of their own means.” Mary hailed from Magdala, a vibrant seaport at the time, and may have come from a well-to-do merchant family.

So, let the rumors be put to rest, and let us continue to think about the importance of these brave women to the ministry of Christ.

NaPoWriMo 25 – Mother

Last night I learned that my friend’s mother passed away, and I can’t even think how to write a poem today, unless it is a poem that honors her and her life. I am not well myself, so I am of little or no help to anyone, but what I can do is write, and pray.

Today’s NaPoWriMo challenge is to write a poem using anaphora. The Poetry Foundation defines anaphora as the repetition of a word or words at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or lines to create a sonic effect.

It is sad that we are so close to Mother’s Day. But I think the idea to use anaphora is perfect, because it helps to emphasize her role, her experiences, her impact.

Mother

by Jan Brown

She is the one who was born into beauty
Who lived through the ugly pogroms
Who gave birth in the displaced persons camp
And still carried on

She is the one who brought children to the new world
Who struggled in a strange land
Who grappled with a loony language (English)
And still made a life

She is the one who worked hard hours
Who created a home for her husband
Who gave life to her family
And kept it going

She is the one who loved them
Who loved them when they went to war
Who loved them when they were flawed
And when they were perfect

She is the one who loved them
Who loved them when they went to college
Who loved them when they were sick
And when they held on

She is the one who cooked perogies
Who made kapusta and babka
Who taught us to make the holidays flavorful
And made us smile

She is the one who loved and lost
Who suffered that loss that no mother should
Who grieved her son, not yet fifty
And still held up

She is the one who loved and lost
Who grieved her husband, together so long
Who carried on, alone and lonely
And still loved him

She is the one who is reunited
Who is greeted by husband and son
Who is greeted by saints and angels
And we will always love

Ups and Downs

This pair of senryu is in response to the National Haiku Writing Month prompts of the last two days.  If you have a chronic or degenerative disease, or love someone who does, you will recognize the feelings.

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February 8th theme:  bounce

spiraling down —
a painful ricochet
to the next level of hell

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February 9th theme:  belief

finding faith —
a slow re-ascent
on angels’ wings

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Iroquois thanksgivings

Dreamcatcher wikimedia Media 123 cc by-sa 3-0

Today’s poem is about thanksgiving with a small “t.” It is not specific to the holiday of Thanksgiving. Rather, it is a lovely litany of the natural gifts of our generous planet, gifts that give us a reason to be thankful every ordinary day.

Its sentiments and structure are Native American in origin. The poem, known as “The Thanksgivings” or “The Iroquois Thanksgivings,” has been credited to Harriett Maxwell Converse, dating to the occasion of the Iroquois Green Corn Festival in New York in 1890. Ms. Converse was a Native American advocate of the 19th century and an adopted member of the Seneca Nation.

The faith and beliefs of the Iroquois imbue the natural world with both human and divine characteristics. Their rich, luscious vision of our physical surroundings reveals a profound respect for nature, man and God.

The poem honors “our supporters, who had charge of our harvests.”

According to legend, the “supporters” are a trio of sister spirits who are guardians of the corn, the beans and the squash, respectively. I really like the idea of a spiritual guardian for my squash, especially the pumpkins that become a tasty pie….and spicy muffins…and bread 🙂

The poem celebrates “that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.”

Ga-ne-o-di-o was a controversial leader whose name, in English, is Handsome Lake. He helped the Iroquois Nation deal with the destructive effects of colonization by renewing traditional beliefs, eschewing alcohol and elevating the importance of family and faith. He wrote The Code of Handsome Lake, a moral and spiritual guide for the people. These are “the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o” to which the poet refers.

I hope that you have many blessings and many strong, spiritual guardians to watch over you, now and all year long. Happy Thanksgiving!

Click the link and enjoy the poem! The Thanksgivings, by Harriett Maxwell Converse

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For more information on the poet: Harriett Maxwell Converse bio from pbs.org

For more information on Handsome Lake: Wikipedia bio, Handsome Lake

A Haiku for New Orleans

after the funeral

raised parasol

resurrected soul

Second Line Send off

The NaHaiWriMo prompt for July 13 is “parasol.” My flash fiction piece, “Last Wishes,” posted to the blog yesterday, incorporated characters from New Orleans that had been affected by Katrina. With those images still in my mind, I thought of the parasols in the “second line” of a jazz funeral.

In a traditional jazz funeral in New Orleans, there is a funeral march, as instrumentalists play a funeral dirge on the way to the burial site. Mourners walk with the band behind the funeral carriage, often carrying parasols to hide from the scorching Louisiana sun.

After the funeral, the focus is on a celebration of the soul’s resurrection and a joyous remembrance of the life that was lived. There is a second march, this time to the venue of the celebration. This is known as the “second line,” a wonderful send-off to Heaven with rollicking jazz and dancing in the street. Those with parasols often twirl and lift them up in rhythm with the music, signifying the upward movement of the loved one’s spirit.

The beautiful photo above depicts a “second line” march for New Orleans, celebrating the city’s recovery on the fifth anniversary of Katrina. The photo was taken by Ryan H. Martin and shared on Flickr.com. Thank you, Ryan! To see Ryan’s photostream on Flickr, click here.

Leonard Pitts: a universal explanation for religious atheists

I loved this column, which was shared by one of my fellow Friday Fictioneers. The column is a brilliant and amusing look at our constant lame attempts to categorize ourselves and others. Enjoy!

Leonard Pitts: a universal explanation for religious atheists – Leonard Pitts Jr. – MiamiHerald.com.