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“You are the only person who can forgive yourself. Once that forgiving has taken place, you can then console yourself with the knowledge that a diamond is the result of extreme pressure… The pressure can make you something quite precious, quite wonderful, quite beautiful and extremely hard.”

—Maya Angelou

Holiday Illustrations From the Book of  American Life

After the smell of hotdogs on the Fourth day of July
and spark-shooting fountains cause familial glee,
it’s too hot to wear flip-flops.  But school starts anyway.

The pools close, and the pumpkins wear silly faces (some with
paper ears like the one Paul designed).  The air smells heavy
with the wetness of fallen leaves or exciting, when raked piles
crackle and burn. The turkey’s in the oven,
and the house smells like yams.

After the tree goes up, and the cat pulls tinsel down,
the crèche holds the Jesus-Baby and Advent-candles glow,
we trade Valentine cards, and the snow blows in (a bit
later than expected).  Deep snow-drifts pile up—

reaching the roof of the falling-down shed.
Cherry blossoms and azaleas come forth.
The wind blows yellow pollen all over the car.

The sky has grown dark and the firmament shaken.
We place Jesus’ body in a borrowed tomb
and wait together for three days.
Each blossom on the dogwood forms its symbolic cross.

After Resurrection, a butterfly lingers close to my face.
We smell the delicate scent of roses.
Then “Oh [what] can you see” by the light of any dawn,
at any twilight’s gleam?  The weather’s hot, and we

can’t help but notice a steady, impoverished stream
penetrating our southernmost rampart.

How do we welcome home our lost brothers and sisters? By running out to them, embracing them, and kissing them. By clothing them with the best clothes we have and making them our honored guests. By offering them the best food and inviting friends and family for a party. And, most important of all, by not asking for excuses or explanations, only showing our immense joy that they are with us again. (See Luke 15:20-24).

That is being perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. It is forgiving from the heart without a trace of self-righteousness, recrimination, or even curiosity. The past is wiped out. What counts is the here and now, where all that fills our hearts is gratitude for the homecoming of our brothers and sisters.

emphasis mine

July 2009