Thursday, January 27, 2011

Skid Strips

   There is a beautiful marble piece outside of the door, worn smooth with many shoe falls. It’s really a great piece of stone, but every time it got wet – it got really slippery. So, a thin ice film or just a little cover of moisture, and that beautiful stone becomes a polished stone that might as well have an oil covering. So, every time I would walk on it when it was wet, it required some fancy footwork – or a little bit of ice skating. Then, one day I walked there, and outside the door on the marble, there were black skid strips. I had a moment where I was just a little sad. Such beautiful marble and now covered in thick black lines. Then, I stepped over it and was very glad about the safety that was now there.

   There are other things in life that appear beautiful. But when you actually step over to examine it more closely, you find your feet slipping out from under you and the beauty changes to danger. It’s at that moment, those big thick strips are such a comfort and safety. Footing becomes firm, the door opens, and instead of doing a face plant against the threshold, I can actually step across it.
   When a danger presents itself, when a trouble starts it’s sing song of worry and dread, when fear works its way in slowly and subtly – look for the thick black skid strips. Look for the thick black skid strips in the Bible, in the Word of God, as you seek out the truths and peace He offers. There is nothing quite like it.

Monday, January 24, 2011


   Ow, ow ow ow ow ow!!! Somehow I managed to catch my hand between the phone and the plastic phone case. It was stuck on a pants pocket and I couldn’t get it off my pants pocket or my hand. Let me set the scene….

   Buddy, the puppy needs to go out and I put his leash on him and we go out. I grab a hat on my way out the door. After a text, and trying to put the phone back into the case one handed with a leash being yanked on by a happy hyper puppy, somehow my a small chunk of skin got caught in the phone case with the phone. Thus, here I am standing outside in my rubber boots, hat, and with the puppy on the leash declaring to the entire neighborhood, ow ow OW! My attempt to release my hand wasn’t working and it was really jammed in there, I couldn’t just pull it out. So, I dashed inside and got assistance to get my hand free! Thank heavens for helping hands!
   So, what did I learn besides putting your phone back into it’s case should be done only with two hands and adult supervision? Sometimes, you need someone else to help untangle you!
   Matthew 18:15 tells us, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” We were not made to be solitary creatures, but to rely on each other as one part of the body relies on another part to function. There are times when we can work through a problem, just us and God. However, there are other times when we need someone else to come along beside and teach.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


   I have been counting down, three weeks, two weeks, and now I am down to days. Soon, weather permitting, dear friends will be here for a visit. I cannot explain the joy I have at seeing them again, as these are such dear people in my life. I plan for their coming, how can I make it extra special? What can we do to make wonderful memories? And yet I know that the simple time spent together will be the most special of all.

   I think this must just be a taste of what it’s like in heaven. As our Lord prepares a place for us, He is counting down – oh, only two more years, weeks, months, days, hours, minutes, etc… until I can finally hold my friend and sit and talk with them again face to face. How I long for that and want everything to be just perfect for their arrival. The anticipation of a God who loves His children – that is a great thing.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Young at Heart

   No matter your age, I encourage you to remain young at heart. Not, childish in choices or immature, but young in retaining and excitement and wonder of the discovery of the world. I witnessed a child yesterday examine something small and common place, a door stop. A piece of rubber, triangular shaped with the purpose of holding doors. I pass it every day and haven’t really noticed it in months. And yet, here he was, squatted down as only a toddler can do, investigating as only a toddler does. The young at heart there in living, moving color.

   Go, investigate and discover your world. Learn, try, be brave, be daring – notice the everyday, it just might be extraordinary.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Simeon’s Bucket List

   Do you remember the movie that came out several years ago, about two men who were approaching their deaths. They decided that there were things that they wanted to do, a list of things prior to (sorry for the cliché) “kicking the bucket.”

   It’s not really such a bad idea to have a list of goals, of desired accomplishments in a life. But, what should that list look like? What should I put on there? It struck me yesterday morning, kind of an out of the blue thought, that Simeon had an excellent bucket list.
   Simeon was a man who lived in Jerusalem and was waiting to see the Messiah before dying. This was not just the top thing on his list – this was his list. What an amazing concept, of making seeing Jesus your bucket list. What would the side effects be? If our true focus and goal is to see Jesus, then I believe we would see numerous unexpected changes in our lives. Our perspectives would shift, our choices would change, slowly but surely our ideals and ideas would come into line with God’s will. We would start to experience peace, joy, and love in new and wondrous ways.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sidewalk Footsteps

   A winter day in Iowa, sunny and cold, and I found myself walking to my car for a quick lunch trip home. The sidewalks have been covered these last few days with a mixture of snow and ice, scraped clean, and then covered again. Today, I noticed that a smattering of tracks had been left on the sidewalk where boots and shoes had picked up the snow and left it on the sidewalk.

   I liked seeing that collection of prints, different sizes and walking patterns. And I started wondering about the people who made the prints. Where were they going, were they hurrying, or strolling and enjoying the sunshine? The prints reminded me of that Footprints poem, which is a beautiful reminder of how God walks beside us and with us, even when we don’t know it.
   We each leave footprints in the world around us. Memories and impacts on the people around us; while they impact us as well.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yarn Knots

   I have a beautiful round ball of a red soft wool yarn. It wasn’t in such an orderly ball until recently as it had turned from a large spiral of yarn into a collection of knots within knots. It was hidden in the yarn bag because it was such a mess. As I started untwisting it and working through the knots, I found out that it was going to take a while. Take the ball of yarn through the four strands, then loop it back through three others. Undo the twist of two pieces that are then twisted under and over and around two other pieces. Yes, it took a while. But, slowly, the knots grew smaller and the ball of yarn orderly and wrapped grew larger.

   Knots in our lives can work in much the same way. We realize that the knots are suddenly growing out of control. Where did they come from? My first inclination might be to stick it bag into the yarn bag, don’t address it and hope that somehow it just becomes orderly on its own. And well, that didn’t work at all… So, the yarn has be taken out, the knots or problems must be examined and looked at. Then, slowly one twist at a time the knot is examined and a decision is made as to which way movement is needed to undo the knot. It takes time and effort to undo the knots and problems of our lives, whether on a personal level, locally, statewide, nationally, or globally. We cannot just place them in the yarn bag and hope that they fix themselves.
   Be brave, be strong, seek God’s peace and wisdom – take a deep breath and pull the yarn out of the bag.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cardinal Spots

   We had beautiful big snowflakes falling yesterday, so big that they looked like feathers falling out of the sky. On the branches of the trees sat brilliant red cardinals, tucked in amongst the twigs and bark for shelter. They were brilliant red, showing up as crimson feathered spots in the white and brown lines of snow covered trees. With all of that flying snow about, it is easy to focus on the mass of the motion and not on the one flakes movement or what else is going on. The snowflakes are beautiful and I do love to watch them come down. They can also be very distracting.

   There are other distractions I face, some beautiful and some not so, that distract me from those wondrous moments of life. Distractions, those little diversions and commotions that interrupt and serve to either disturb or amuse; they can upset our days with great joy or great frustration. But good or bad, distractions can interrupt our time with God. I was reminded of how precious that time is when remembering a recent time of quiet and solitude. It was just for a few moments, at a January bonfire when I remembered in the quiet the lovely peace of solitude with God. It is not something that has been lost on me, just in the haze of cold medicine and recovering my energy from the cold it was something that was a bit lost on me.
   Maybe I need January bonfires more often, maybe I just need to remember to look past the flurries of distraction to the cardinals perched in the trees.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


   The last vestiges of a cold is hanging on stubbornly, so I want to pencil these words (metaphorically) before the cold meds kick in and kick me out. Friday evening found me, sniffles and all, in the sanctuary of a local church listening to the Moody Bible Institute Women’s Concert Choir and Hand Bell Ensemble. The music was beautiful, every word and phrase carefully planned. The attention to the details, the endings of the words, the focus on the director, it led to a wonderful overall creation of sound. But, in the midst of that beautiful collection of music, it was something else that struck me. The presence of the choir was like a sweet wind that cleared out the cobwebs of a musty place. You know that feeling when spring first has a nice warm day and you open the windows, the winter air is finally blown away and the spring smells and freshness comes in. This was the impression I had watching this choir as they performed their pieces.

   The musicians, they have held a special place throughout time. They have heralded eternal moments with angelic songs, marched with trumpets, made the processional way with harps, lyres, and cymbals. Psalms 81 spoke of the song, “Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! Begin the music, strike the timbrel, play the melodious harp and lyre.” Sing, shout, strike, play – these onomatopoeia type words can also be heard in laughter, prayer, and praise. It is not always the beautiful concert music that is so carefully planned and expressed that praise can be found. It can be in the coo of a baby, the sigh of a sleeper, the long smell at a fresh baked pie, the ummmmm of a savory bite enjoyed. These are all praise, they praise the Maker, the Provider.
   Make music, sing a song.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Heart Headline

   I heard the most interesting news piece on the radio this morning, asking people what the headline of their heart was. We see headlines all over the place: newspapers, blogs, tweets, news sites, magazines, and news broadcasts. Unfortunately, those headlines are often violent, troubled, angry, and divisive. But, the headline of the heart might be something entirely different.

   I look around me and wonder what the headlines of the heart might be for those around me. For me, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for my family this week. After not feeling well and having my feet knocked out from under me with a recent winter cold, I have seen my family bend over backwards to care for me. Everything from the snow being cleaned off my car to a rich and healthy vegetable soup – my heart was overwhelmed with the love shown. I hope your heart headline is something wonderful.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why is the Sky Blue

   My moment of helping with the Christmas decoration taking down took the form of helping remove the lights from the trees. I’m not sure if the memory was triggered of the sound of the lights and the cord moving against the feathery evergreen branches or something else, but I remembered a moment years ago. I was sitting in a dark room with many others, high school students and camp counselors. Bunk beds lined the walls and the metal structure sounded the rain plainly.

   I was at the Space Academy camp in Huntsville, Alabama. A tornado warning had been sounded and we had all been moved into the dorms of one of the groups. Those metal walls didn’t much to shield us from the sound of the rain and many were starting to get nervous. You could just feel the tension in the room. Quietly, our counselor called us together and asked us if we knew why the sky was blue.
   What? That question caught me, the me that is not so fond of tornadoes, completely by surprise. I wasn’t the only one. Soon we were in a conversation about light spectrums and how light bends and is created as color in our eyes. Being the rather overzealous, passionately curious, intellectual personality types, we just couldn’t resist that conversation. For the counselor, it was rather a brilliant move to distract what could have been a bunch of hysterical teenagers.
   I’m not quite sure what jogged that memory last night, but it did and now I am thinking again about why the sky is blue.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Repetitive Repeating Repeats

    The alarm clock goes off and the chimes just keep chiming in my ears. I move the switch to the off position and then fall back into bed, pull the covers back up, and resume my sleepy thoughts. Pillowing up the sheets and covers until I am completely surrounded, I start the morning argument in my head.

“Get up”
“Not! It’s warm here. I am not moving!”
“Get up. There are things to get done.”
“Didn’t you hear me before? No way! No no no! You are tired, pooped, exhausted, wiped out. What do
     you think you are doing getting out of that bed? You need to stay in.”
“I’m not tired, I just got 8 hours of sleep.”
“Tired, sleepy. Close your eyes and go to sleep. Just soak the heat in, cuddle up with the flannels and the
    pillows and the blankets.”
“Yaawwwwnnnnnn!!!! Maybe I am tired.”
“See, you just yawned – I told you you were tired!”
“No, I’m not tired. Stop that. I have to get up!”
   The argument generally goes on like this for a few minutes until I convince myself that I have to really get out of bed or start really running late for the day. What amazes me is that I really am telling myself over and over is that I’m tired. I just slept for hours! How could I possibly be tired? I’m not tired, I’m just not awake yet. And not being a morning person, that is saying something. It amazes me that the repetition in the conversation can just about convince me that I really am tired. There is enormous power in repetitive things in your mind, over and over. If I can convince myself that I am tired in just a few half awake moments, how tired will I be if that is what I tell myself over and over throughout the day?
   We all have little things that turn over in our minds. We must take the time and effort to acknowledge what is there and determine if it is something good or not. If not, we must change the pattern. Let’s repeat things over which involve being kind, capable, and loving. Let’s repeat ideas of mercy and gratitude. Take charge of your thoughts and that is a repetitive power indeed.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Celebrating Weird

   I can confess without discomfort that I am a bit odd to most way of thinking. I’m fine with that because it’s who I am. I am eagerly reading about how the Middle Ages were formed according to our modern since of history; Tolkien’s iambic pentameter is something that strikes my ear as great beauty, I nearly always have a camera with me and take around 3 to 300 pictures a day. There are enough pre-conceptions out there that this has not always been something that was comfortable. High school yearbooks have the words “so sweet” in them so much that I remember wiggling up my nose at the words. Sweet? Really – that seemed like such a cotton candy, melted and non-consequential word. But, truth be told I really wanted to be able to feel like I fit.

   It wasn’t until later that I started feeling more comfortable in my skin. History, love it! That’s okay, that’s just me. Yes, I will sing in the store and may have odd bits of songs running through my head at whatever you said. I get absolutely thrilled when I can master a difficult piece of software or understand statistical analysis. That just makes my day!
   We are all made uniquely, different from each other. We probably all hear someone tell us when we are younger that if the entire world were alike it would be a terribly boring place. Well, yes that is probably true. However, we continue to seek out and match up our similarities. Let’s celebrate our unique propensities.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Repetitive History

   I’ve been really enjoying a new book about how the history of the Middle Ages as we know them came to be. What has really amazed me about this is how some of these historians and their accompanying philosophies had a tunneling effect, one reflecting the other back and forth over and over. In the end, their entire world was filtered through these ideals and they started to formulate their current ideas of government, ethics, societal structure, and economics based on an empire of the 11th or 12th centuries.

   I love history. I love studying history, especially the Middle Ages. It’s not just the romanticized ideals of chivalry, knights, and codes of honor. Instead, it’s more of the massive changes and upheaval that people went through and how they very much prepared the foundations of our own world. Still, I also understand that I cannot make the world around me function like the world at that time.   
   Our filters and perceptions of what reality is and should be, is not only influenced by historical and cultural mores. It is also impacted by our personal decisions, expectations, families, and other circumstances. We then look out at the world around us and it is as if we are wearing glasses that change the way that we see. For these historians, it was viewing the world through the records about the empires of Frederick II, Otto III, and the common law foundings of the British Empire. For you, it may be television, books, family, friends, work, etc… In the end, we have to be careful what filters we put in front of us, to choose those which are wise and good.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Waltzing Matilda

“Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda, You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me…” That song has been quite literally stuck in my brain for the last twenty four hours. I woke up yesterday with it in my mind and it has stayed there since. At odd intervals, I – the person who really does wander grocery stores and choir lofts alike singing aloud, I have had a hard time not bursting out with a billabong or coolabah tree. But somehow staring at the work in front of me, I don’t think that all my fellow office sitters would appreciate my vocal interruptions. Oh well….

   Isn’t it strange how a song can lodge in your mind and just stay there? How does that happen? Did I dream of Australia the previous night? But some songs will just stay there, as if they had actually been written on me with indelible ink. If songs and words that became stuck really did become written on me with indelible ink, I wonder what would show up. I know what I would like to show up, maybe something similar to Paul.
   The Apostle Paul went and worked among the Jews and Greeks. Then, Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia but were opposed to Paul and he drew his boundaries and headed out a different way. I think that that must have been a difficult thing for Paul to do. Here he is, devoting himself to a work that he believes in and now is forced from it. When Paul left, he had a vision from the Lord. Paul was told “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.” Paul had something stuck in his head and heart, words from God. No, he had never heard Waltzing Matilda, but his song was one of salvation – a message of hope and life. If we could have seen those words, it would have been “keep speaking”.
   Hopefully, this song will be done with me soon and move along to someone else’s brain. I’d be happy to share. But, the thoughts of “keep speaking”, those I will cling to, holding on to them and wrapping my fingers into the fabric of God’s word as tightly as I can.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Twelve Pages

   Every year, when I take down my calendar and put up the new one, I like to take a few minutes to peruse the last twelve pages of the calendar. I flip through January and see visits with sledding and snowman building. The visits with sweet friends in February leads up to the beginning of spring fever and March seed picking. April sees the beginning of the local garden centers being restocked, the smell of dirt starts to come back as the ground starts to thaw. May shows a trip back home to Ohio and Kentucky, with little smiley faces leading up to the date I needed to leave. Birthdays in May and then birthdays in June, days of cake and cards with plans to celebrate. July celebrations of patriotic independence and summer days, complete with sunshine and sun block. August leads to school starting, school supply sales and the feel of autumn as a hint to be. September finds me counting down anxiously for an October trip to Florida. November and Thanksgiving fly by as Christmas is coming. I love looking back at the year and as I see dates marked out on my calendar of events, lunch plans, trips, birthdays, doctor and dentist appointments, I remember many different moments of the year.

   It is only then that I am ready to really close out that calendar, say good bye to 2010 and welcome 2011.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Recognizing, Thanking, Remembering

   Yesterday, a tragedy occurred when in a time of terrible events Deputy Sheriff Hopper and Patrolman Blum were shot. Deputy Sheriff Hopper lost her life yesterday as someone acted in a truly monstrous way. These officers that go about their jobs of protecting us serve an often thankless role. We grumble when they stop us for speeding or lights that are out, complain when we are inconvenienced and moved away from a dangerous area or to the edge of the road when they drive through. We run away from the gunfire, from the accident scenes, and the fires. The vast majority of us have never been into the war zone of either military scenes or of domestic ones.

   So in honor of Deputy Sheriff Hopper who gave up her life yesterday and Patrolman Blum who was wounded – thank you. Thank you for your work. Thank you for keeping our homes, streets, and cities safer. Thank you for donning the responsibility of your at times distasteful tasks, the fireman’s mask, the medic’s kit. Thank you for hands that become dirty with sweat, blood, frustration, and tears. We do not often stop to thank you, to recognize your actions.
Thank you.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

In Tune

   I grew up singing by ear, where written music was optional and the harmony just came naturally. Some songs the parts were and are so distinct in my mind that I didn’t even need to have someone sing lead out loud, I could just hear it. Now, I love for people to sing and be comfortable with joining in no matter what their voice is like. It’s really all about making a joyful noise and not all about the beauty of a particular voice. But, if I’m listening to someone perform, yeah, I’ll admit that I prefer that the singer be on key. There was someone singing the 1938 hit “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and as she hit the words her voice slide off the tone into a misplaced flat. Wow, my entire focus of the beauty of the tune and the farewell in the words shifted to the notes. Being in tune can be so important or the entire focus will be lost.

   Life can be much the same way. Our choices are the notes on the page. We decide where the pitch will land. When we slide off of our notes, we find the joy slipping and growing ragged. We have to pitch back up or down to find the correct note. In the meanwhile, we can forget the words and be drawn into the sourness of the tones. Pitch back up and remember the words, keep your heart and choices in tune with God’s love. Let your song be a beautiful one.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


   Hello new year, welcome and happy arrival! As the new year is going to be ushered in, I am looking forward to quiet evening with the family. Right now, if I look over my shoulder, I can see a blond lab face snoozing along quiet content. A black lab is laying dreaming next to my leg and a chocolate is a little farther over. It’s not the exciting hotspot of entertainment that some others will have, no ticker tape parades, no fireworks and crowds of party goers. I’m okay without all the noise and excitement, but still want to recognize the ending of one year and the beginning.

   One year ends, three hundred and sixty five days that have come and gone. I can’t change them, can only remember them and grow from them. Now, a new year begins. As the year begins, I wish you many days of deep belly laughs that are so strong they bring tears to your eyes and make your ribs ache. I hope you have friends who love fiercely and with great loyalty. I pray that you find God finding you, and that your heart aches for God’s presence. May your lessons be easy and your learning be swift. I hope that there is a hand to hold when yours is empty, and that your hand can reach out to someone else when needed. Most of all, I pray you experience grace, peace, and faith. Happy New Year!