It begins small—a mass of shoots along the ground, their tendrils angling for fence posts, for trellises, for garden lanterns, for rock outcroppings along creek bottoms. The fevered race is on. Summer sun hotwires their prodigious growth into swirls of greenery that soon become tangled thickets. Occasional breezes whip the gummy tendrils onto still more shrubs or upon whatever lies in their path. In late August clusters of star-shaped flowers feather the tops of these vines, their sugary sweetness intoxicating bees and other insects.

 

 

 

Sweet Autumn Clematis is the name of this perennial.

It seems that gossip has similar characteristics: fiery, infectious, showy, invasive, suffocating. Such psychic darkness lurks beneath the guise of excitement and hilarity and swells the media’s breaking news and ignites lunchrooms. Its fabricators insist that they are in the know, no matter the mangled remains of their prey. The resulting entrapment seems impermeable to change—But not so.

Both tangled vines and gossip are noxious, and harsh measures are needed to destroy them. The first hard frost kills the perennial and reduces its lush foliage to the straggly hairs of a witch hell-bent on escape. And the laser-truth of grace excises the lies from those afflicted and restores their characters, whether still living or deceased.

We have only to wait. Evil has always had short shrift in this world.

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It was late August, time for Mother’s jelly making for our winters during the war years. From a farmer’s stall in the country, Dad had already lugged baskets of purple grapes into the hot kitchen and placed them in the sink for the first washing. All was ready.

Perspiration glistening on her cheeks, her brow taut, Mother set to work. With gloved-hands she pulled grapes from their woody stems, rinsed them under the faucet, then plunked them into steel pots filled with water upon the counter. Next came hours of simmering the bubbling grapes over low burners. At intervals, she stirred them with a long-handled spoon between sips of ice water. Next came cups of sugar and more stirring. From the living room came strains of symphonies from the Capehart. Toward mid-afternoon, Mother poured the sticky mass through cheesecloth, hooked to the top of a tripod, and watched the gummy sweetness drip into the pot below.

That evening saw jars of grape jelly, sealed with paraffin wax, lining the pantry shelf. Her work finished, her splotched apron resembled the regal pastiche of a preschooler, her housedress soaked with perspiration.

The pungent aroma seeped into the breakfast room where I was sitting with the funnies from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Already, I was enjoying the sweetness of Mother’s grape jelly on warm buttered toast before walking to school.

With this blog, I honor our Mother’s courage in maintaining the semblance of normalcy in our home, all the while dreading Dad’s eligibility for the draft and becoming cannon fodder. That did not happen.

 

“The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Blessed be the Lord.” So prayed the Psalmist over three thousand years ago, his response to the ills of his day.

His angst resonates with our own: darkness and confusion that numb sensibilities, sicken resolve, foment divisions, and bifurcate values. The computerized stranglehold upon time seems to have become the new god, the Sacred appearing to have abandoned his creation. Beneath the glitz of social media, the entertainment world, and the towering megapolis of progress evidenced in skylines the world over, putrefies a spiritual and moral stench that suffocates the soul.

But no matter, greedy pundits say, just ramp up the freebies and just watch how the sheeple will respond. Give them more cake.

In the Psalmist’s time, however, a remnant held fast to the Sword of Truth within the depths of their being. The same holds true today. As dismaying as the media’s escalating reports of rancor, carnage, and death appear, we cling to a different reality, one modeled by Jesus of Nazareth who endured the same dregs of evil, yet triumphed over them.

So with today’s Psalmist, the author of the Serenity Prayer, we pray “…taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is, not as we would have it, trusting that You will make all things right if we surrender to Your will, so that we may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.”

All is indeed well.

 

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