Keziah: A Little Piece of God’s Heartby Lizzie Grayson is the impetus for this blog. I read the book flying home last week from Cyprus, and I haven’t been able to get the subject out of my mind.
Keziah is a profoundly moving book about coming to terms with the experience of a stillborn child. It’s a book about a child “lost” and also ultimately about the sovereignty of God, faith, and praise amidst pain.
The author Lizzie Grayson shares she and her husband Mark’s experience with multiple pregnancies, two that ended with the births of their living and healthy children Joshua and Iona, and three that ended with a blighted ovum, a baby that died in the womb, and a stillborn child, Keziah.
Lizzie Grayson candidly relates her emotional highs and lows, her worries, fears, and weariness, and her questioning God’s design and intentions. She also catalogs in clearly stated spiritual terms what she learns about the Lord, herself, the Christian faith, the incredible support of faithful family and friends, and life itself. Their story is at times a tearful one, but it’s also one that, eventually, in the grace of God is a triumphant one.
No one knows why God takes a child home stillborn and Grayson doesn’t try to offer special wisdom much less clichés. What Grayson and her husband offer is their tale of woe, comfort, and joy as they walk with the Lord, not always understanding but trusting. In the end, they conclude from experience that “God is good,” not simply because he in time blessed them with a living and healthy baby girl, Iona, but because he blessed them with a child in heaven, Keziah.
I know personally Keziah’s grandfather and grandmother, people of profound spiritual commitment and gracious spirits. So somehow I’m not surprised to learn their daughter and son-in-law are people of similar strong Christian faith.
This story brought back memories. When my wife and I were in our early twenties we “walked through the valley” with a couple whose beautiful daughter was stillborn. They had two sons who looked like their blonde father. Then they had this little girl whose jet-black hair and features copied her mother.
The wisest thing the preacher did, I thought, was recommend our friends allow a complete funeral process. My wife assisted Mother in preparing. I drove Dad a few miles along the interstate and will never forget his quiet but deeply felt grief during that drive. We attended the wake with them, viewed the little girl with them, heard the pastor speak briefly but meaningfully to them, went to the cemetery with them, and stayed with them for a time thereafter. I claim no special part for us, but I will always be glad we were able to be there with our friends through this time.
The process of “Good-bye, for now” that the funeral day allowed may not have brought immediate “closure”—who can feel “closed” when they’ve lost a daughter? But the process made a profound statement that this deceased little girl was not a “thing,” not an “it,” not a trauma to get past, but a human being living forever in heaven. Like Keziah’s parents, to this day our friends celebrate, more than thirty years later, the existence of their daughter and their trust in God’s perfect will.
I recommend Keziah. It’s a personal, practical, and powerful book.
I'm not an artist. I wish I were, at least in the sense I could draw or paint or sculpt some rudimentary pieces of my own art. But in God's providence artistic talent is limited in my DNA.
What's not limited is an attraction to and an appreciation for art in all its forms. From divinely crafted breath-taking beauty in Creation to the art museum where most of us see great art, I like it all, even "modern art" with all it's weird presentations. I've visited the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the National Gallery of Art and other Smithsonian art museums in Washington, D.C. to name a few. I highly recommend them all.
Art and the ability to appreciate it, certainly the ability to create it, are gifts from God. This gift is part of us, human beings, part of our being made in the "image of God."
If to this point in your life you haven't enjoyed some form of art I urge you to try it now. Go to any reputable museum and ponder the beauty, the expression of human values and aspiration, or simply the sheer ingenuity involved in many forms of art. Think about what the artist was trying to say, what you like or dislike about a particular objet d'art, or what draws you to one form of art and perhaps not others.
That's another thing. Not everyone likes the same kind of art. This is one reason we have so many forms with which to interact. Find the art that you like and go from there. Your appreciation for other forms will likely grow in time, but even if it doesn't, you can enjoy what you like.
Here are a few more thoughts about the gift of art:
Start with Penn State, then add USC, Uiversity of Miami, Ohio State, Syracuse, Ndamukong suh’s stomp, and Floyd Mayweather’s cheap shot. Reach back a little farther and you get Alberto Contador and before him Floyd Landis being stripped of Tour de France wins for doping, and you get Bill Belichick’s sideline video cheating scandal for the Boston Patriots. There are far more examples than those listed here.
Not all these examples are of the same level or concern. Some have argued that people over-reacted to certain occurrences, like for example the memorabilia-for-tattoos scenario at Ohio State. Certainly the child sexual molestation issues at Penn State and Syracuse are as bad as things get. Whatever your take on some of these instances, they all represent a hit on sportsmanship.
The New Orleans Saints “bounty system,” bonus pay for intentionally harming other teams’ players to knock then out of games represents a total disregard for sportsmanship. Not only did members of the Saints coaching staff ignore rules, they later lied to the NFL about their practice, and over at least three years stepped on ethics and fair play. What makes this situation a scandal is that not one or two but many people, coaches and players, colluded to make this scheme happen.
The Saints-that-ain’t worked together in multi-person cheating, lack of integrity, absence of ethics, and disregard for sportsmanship. It’s not unlike Enron or Arthur Andersen of a few years ago, just a different playing field.
Sportsmanship is the idea that sports teams can meet on a court or field of play for fair, honest, and by-the-rules competition. Any effort to gain advantage outside simply the talent and skill and desire of players participating in the event is a form of cheating. Such efforts destroy the integrity of sport, remove from it the joy and beauty of athletics, and reduce the competition to a conflict.
What’s even worse about the New Orleans Saints’ “bounty” is that it aimed at hurting other team’s athletes. This system was set up to damage not just fair play and competition but the health, wellbeing, and possibly livelihood of opposing athletes. It was a form of paying people for assault.
I was never all that warm to Roger Goodell, though I don’t know why. I’m in his camp now. The New Orleans Saints deserved to have the book thrown at them, and Goodell demonstrated far more backbone than most sports commissioners have been known to evidence. He conducted an investigation, found the evidence, and applied the penalty. For this we might in a few years be lauding him for helping restore some sportsmanship in professional sports. Now if only the NCAA could find its own Goodell.
Authorities confiscate the weapon and call for lockdown when grade school children show up at school with knives, even penknives. And sadly, perhaps they must. It’s the world we live in today.
But it was different when I was a kid. From the time I was in about 5th Grade well into my 20s I carried a penknife everywhere I went. It wasn’t a weapon. It was an all-purpose, highly functional tool.
My penknives came in different sizes, colors, and styles. I loved and lost them all. Somehow they eventually found a way out of my pocket and turned up missing, permanently. This was always a sad moment—my “friend” was gone—but it also meant I could pick a new one.
I used my penknife for whittling, playing “Mumbly-Peg,” cutting things as needed when I was in the field or woods (which was often), and later as a young teacher, cutting out newspaper articles for later reference. Having a penknife in my pocket was a kind of ready necessity for going out into the world.
I was not all that different from a lot of young guys at the time. Many of us carried penknives and no one intended to use and certainly never did use them in a threatening manner. Our penknives were just a part of coming of age, one symbol and artifact of our manhood. No middle class young man in the 50s and 60s grew up without a penknife.
It’s interesting to note how much culture has changed, even with respect to something as simple as a penknife. Today, they’re used by hunters and workmen but aren’t much in evidence anywhere else. As I noted earlier, schools now have extensive policies referencing all manner of items qua weapons. Any kid showing up with a penknife is considered a threat. I’m not taking shots at schools for this. But it’s a sour comment on where we find ourselves in the early 21st Century.
So maybe I’m a member of the last penknife generation? I don’t know. But I’m glad for my penknife memories. They bring back a time too soon gone.
I’ve heard someone use the phrase “off the reservation” several times recently. I’ve never made a habit of using the phrase, but insofar as I ever have I don’t intend to use it again.
The idea is that a person or group is perceived as acting outside typical or expected parameters. The person or group is doing something that someone else thinks isn’t quite right, going off balance, headed in a wrong or unapproved direction.
The phrase dates to the late 19th Century after most Indian or Native American tribes had been given (forcibly moved to) “Reservations,” large tracts of land in Oklahoma or Arizona, for example, land generally unwanted by non-Indians. The tribes had fought, sometimes over decades, an inevitably unsuccessful war for their ancestral lands and eventually surrendered in order for at least tribal remnants to survive. It was a period of systematic subjugation, even genocide, of the Red Man by the White Man.
From time to time in the next few years, Indians who left the reservation in frustration or desperation were called “renegades” and were hunted down because they’d gone “off the reservation.”
The phrase “off the reservation” is therefore an historical leftover. I hear it used, but I don’t like it. Even though I’m not particularly “politically correct,” the phrase strikes me as a kind of antiquated reference harking back to a sorry and shameful time in American history. The phrase perpetuates the idea that certain people or groups are subhuman and ought to be controlled for their own good.
This entire blog sprang fully developed into my mind when I heard a person use “off the reservation” during a conversation about how two different kinds of ethnic groups didn’t get along. The person who said it was making a point with which I agreed and is a man of character and solid values. But he seemed oblivious to the irony of using this particular phrase in the midst of a conversation about prejudice, hatred, and violence between people groups.
I don’t think using the phrase “off the reservation” is a mortal sin, not even a venial one. But I still don’t like its roots and what it implies. For me at least, I’ll find a different way to talk about someone or some group going rogue.