There’s a Limit and It’s Good

“There’s a limit!” Mom yells up the stairs. My brother and I are throwing plastic race cars at each other. It is bedtime, and we have been arguing and annoying each other for half an hour. Mom yells again. “If you kids don’t settle down, I am coming up there with a stick with a bee on the end of it.”

That usually did it. The thought of the miraculous power of our mother, who could coax a bee, stinger and all, onto the end of a stick, and stride up the steps, wielding the buzzing weapon, aiming it  at our bottoms,

sobered us right up.

Mom, ninety eight, now lives at Pleasant Manor Care Center and chuckles when I remind of her ability to settle us down.

Her words, there’s a limit, have been coming back to me lately. As I watch the news, listen to the pundits and politicians, and observe my own little world, I hear her saying in that no nonsense way, “There’s a limit!”

There is a limit – to what people can stand, when their boundaries are violated. There is a limit to what people can bear, when their basic needs are unmet, or they are unable to meet them themselves. There is a limit to the foolishness, whining, blaming, and fighting people can take. There is a limit to what the seas, rivers, forests, and the creatures that make their homes in them can survive. There is a limit to human ability to repair, mend, and change. There is a limit to how much suffering, how much trauma a person can endure before he loses hope, meaning, and his mind.

There is a limit. And limits are good.

There are places in creation which dare not be plundered, usurped, or penetrated. These virgin territories of purity and goodness, by definition need to remain separate, apart, and whole in themselves. There is a holiness, which dwells in the core of individuals, communities, and the creation itself. Respect for the singular distinctions of creation lies at the heart of reverence for life itself.


Glory be to God
for bounds and limits.
Thanks be for fences
and for barbed wire
pad locks, bolts
and abrupt unmoving
dead ends

for stop signs
split rails
margin, hedge and rim
shore, bank and brow.

Blessed art Thou
for shalts
and for shalt nots
for oughts and shoulds
for prohibition
and command.

I praise Thee

for enclosure
circumference, courtyard
croft, crib
corral and coop
pen, balustrade
and fold
for chamber
hutch and manger
paddock, cote and stall
for palisade and parapet
trellis, enclave, wall.

“To be properly bound
is to be properly free,”
said Luther of his God.

So blessed be Thee
for bindings, wraps
and swaddling cloths
for all quilts, covers,
comforter and counterpane
for lids, roofs, tents
hulls, shell, and pod
and all that partitions
holy from profane.

Thank you,
kind and gentle God
for edges, parameters,
and the delicate beauty
of borders thin
that separate this
from that
yes from no
the skin
from the juice
and Thou, sweet Trinity,
from me.

Oh Mighty Fortress,
glad hosannas raise to Thee
for the secret custody
of houses, stable,
shrine and temple
for garden locked
and fountain sealed
where Love tabernacles
under Thy bright wing
in shielded sanctuary.

Praise and laud
forever unto Thee.
Oh Thou art
a most exalted Canopy!
In thy strong shelter
sleeps the virgin
safe and free.


 All creatures great and small,
be wary!

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