Saturday, October 31, 2009

Alone & Retreat

Where should hope be placed?  If you could put such a precious jewel as hope or faith, trust, or love in a safe place, where would you put it?  Perhaps a gigantic safe, with thick bars and a dial of combinations that spins – would that be the place?  I’ve been in a bank vault, thick walls and thicker doors; everything in it is carefully stowed away.  Yes, a vault that is it.  No wait, a vault may be good for storing things, but it just sits there, collecting dust and stale air. 
Other spots people use to store important valuables like dresser drawers or freezers, ooohhh – those hide a rock things…. Maybe that would be the place.  Of course, things can get mixed up in clothing and hide a keys are pretty well known.  No, that won’t work either.
Well, if hiding or careful storage won’t work, perhaps the old adage is true.   Perhaps hiding in plain sight is really the trick.  Yet, if I wear my heart on my proverbial sleeve, it will only last as long as that sleeve and then need washed.  And of course, that is not a very well protected area.  Someone might use it for a handkerchief.
Where do I keep these prized valuables?  In God alone is where the perfect protecting spot is.  A safe place to leave our heart, with the perfect one where hope rests allows me to rest too.  Twelve days till the retreat.  A retreat, a rest, I will draw away from my daily routine and refocus on the hope and rest giver. 
You know, in medieval battles retreats were often the place where the majority of the soldiers were injured.  It is because they often became a route where people scrambled wildly across a field and didn’t listen to commands.  Instead of falling back in a well ordered fashion, many of the foot soldiers turned and ran. 
There are times when hope is hard to come by and God comes to us, asking us to allow the giver of hope hold it for us – in Him alone remember.  Instead of seeing how we should respond, we turn and run away, resulting in disorder and destruction.  As I prepare for a retreat, I need to make sure that I can also be prepared to hand over hope and everything else precious to me to the giver and creator of hope.  Not to retreat wildly, resulting in my own injury, but to fall back to safety and rest.  

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Debt

How many commercials have you heard on the radio, television, seen in the paper or internet – discussing the status of your checkbook? Somehow they always either seem to be promoting a way either out of debt or into buying something else.
Regardless of where you stand on personal debt or the current economic state, there are debts that we all have. One is a debt to each other, the “debt to continue to love one another.” Now, you may be familiar with the idea about loving your neighbor. But, to consider it a debt; this is going a step farther than many of us think or are perhaps prepared to think. And, not only a debt – but a continuing debt.
I know some people who would practically feel their skin crawl at this moment, claiming independence as their greatest strength. Yet, here we have a “continual debt” given to us. The task that we use to fulfill this debt is to love each other. Not an easy task that we have in front of us.
I understand that there will be at least 20 other women I have the pleasure of meeting and worshipping with in thirteen days. There will be a task before each of us, to love one another. A debt to love one another: being patient, kind, not jealous or proud, not boastful, not demanding our own way, but rejoicing with each other. Not giving up on each other, but always hoping and enduring.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Layers upon Layers

I love onions, slightly caramelized and sweet from sautéing in an iron skillet. They go so great on home made pizza, chicken enchiladas, or foccacia bread. Wrapped in a delicate paper like skin, the layers each hold flavor and moisture.
People are a lot like onions, with many different layers. We have the outside layer, closest to the protective skin and that is what a casual glance would see. Those who know us better get to know further inside layers. Who really knows the entire us though?
Two weeks away, the Great Banquet is approaching. As I approach the day to leave, I’m thinking about the layers that God has been peeling away. Very carefully, so as not to injure me, one layer after another is examined. Then, the next and the next. Each brings something new, a new challenge, a new revelation. The thing to remember is that we are all rather onion like – we all have layers.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The wholesome body – Day 15

I sat at my desk today with my large blue St. Ambrose mug in my hands, warming them, and I stopped to breathe deeply of a very wholesome smelling tea.  Whether you like tea or not, some smells are just wholesome, not homey and sweet like homemade cookies, but wholesome and healing.

As I prepare for the Great Banquet, I keep coming back to Matthew 13:17, as well as the story of the Great Banquet.  It’s been seven weeks last Sunday that I’ve been hobbling around with an injured ankle and knee.  In that time I wondered many times why this happened, frustrated at my lack of mobility.  But, it was in the stillness that I found God’s whisper of peace and healing.  So, the banquet in the Bible, it became a feast for the lame and blind.  I was reminded during this time that I know what it is to be feeling stuck, as my leg doesn’t want to function properly, to hurt with each step or when there aren’t any steps being taken.  I know what it’s like to be metaphorically blind, to not see until I run headlong into the wall that life has thrown up in front of me.  With all of this slowing down, I have found myself focusing on this upcoming weekend, wanting to be prepared and that is when I found Matthew 13:17.  The many righteous and the prophets longed to hear God’s word, to see what this select group had seen and heard – and yet didn’t. 

Why didn’t they?  Why were they blind and deaf?  Maybe they were like mis-functioning antibodies.   Antibodies, the protectors of the immune system sometimes don’t work like they should.  Sometimes, they get confused about what they think is good and what they think is bad.  This thoroughly wholesome and wonderfully designed protection malfunctions, a sort of cellular misfire.  But why?  Well, if we look earlier in this same chapter, we can see that Jesus tells his disciples that knowledge is out there – God will give the knowledge.  But, this group doesn’t really see, doesn’t really hear or understand.  Instead, it talks about their hearts being calloused, with ears that are hard of hearing and eyes closed.  Now as funny as that image sounds, you should give it a try (carefully) and walk around with your hands over your ears, eyes closed and with an uncaring attitude, the funny part wears away quickly.  It sounds like some strange cartoon character or sci-fi creature coming to life away from the screen.  However, there are times when I know I have been the same way – thus running into things and missing the point until it’s too late (eh, what did you say???)….  So, hear I am – just really a few weeks away and I am asking – are my eyes open, are my ears open, is my heart soft? 

The body of Christians can act like these antibodies as well.  Imagine the body working, everything is going along just fine and then whoosh – the antibodies sense a threat.  And they march in ready to defend the body.  But, what if your antibodies have ear plugs in and have their eyes closed?  Or, what if your antibodies are there and healthy, but you ignore them?  As the body of Christ, we have a responsibility to act in a healthy manner; it’s a very holistic and organic idea.  So, I prepare to go and be of soft heart, with open eyes and open ears.  Then, may I be ready to serve as needed, to listen, to see, to heal, and too let God heal.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

And We’re Walking….

A favorite TV show of mine has a spoof on museums in one scene of one show, where the guide in a too perky, too highly pitched, too perfectly rehearsed voice stops everyone at an exhibit to explain, and then it’s “and we’re walking”.  With that much information being thrown at them, in a perfectly rehearsed and modulated way, the people pretty much follow – such a nice little tour group, behaving themselves so well.   They are behaving as such a nice little herd of sheep.
Sheep???  Yes – sheep! 
Even though I find this perky museum tour giver rather annoyingly funny, she gives a great example of leading a group of sheep.   Leaders of sheep, leaders of people: both have a big responsibility to get the facts right, to lead well, because all too often we sheep just follow blindly.  Well, not so much blindly as with blinders.  Think about the last time you went to a museum, how much do you remember of the exhibits?  How much information did you take in? 
God doesn’t ask us to follow him with blinders, instead we are reminded over and over how good it is to ask for wisdom and understanding.  Now – we are at Day 16 before the Great Banquet.  I said yesterday that I was asking to be cleansed from the inside out.  Cleansing strips away impurities and now, I’m asking God to help this sheep know what to be ready to add to the packing list.  You see, sometimes we are protected by not knowing or are being prepared for something else later  - like those blinders, but being made to wait and being prepared do not put a limit on what God wants me to see.  Day 16, I’m asking God to add into me what I will need before I go to the Great Banquet.  That the wrong blinders will be taken away and the right focus will be given instead. 
I think about the men that are mentioned in Matthew 9: 27 – 31.  Setting the scene – Jesus has arrived in his home town.  Since showing up he has healed a paralyzed man, eaten with a tax payer, taught the disciples a lesson on fasting, healed a woman who touched his cloak, and raised a little girl from the dead.  As you might imagine, even without modern news networks, internet, phones, blogs, or texts, this kind of news traveled pretty fast.  Can you just imagine – neighbors telling neighbors, in the market place – “Did you hear about…”  Can you just imagine the families of the affected people?  And the little girl who was brought back from the dead, it says her father was a ruler.  So, the servants heard as well.  Some of them may have even been there the moment life came back to her body!   With all of that going on, two blind men followed Jesus.  Maybe someone guided them, maybe they moved with canes and care – I don’t know.  But, I do know that they asked with belief that the Lord would heal them  - and he did! 
I love taking pictures, taking in scenery and sights, seeing the faces of the people and furry creatures I love.  I don’t know what it would be like to be blind.  But, I can imagine how exciting it would be!  Maybe the first few minutes the light seemed overwhelming, colors were perhaps overwhelming for a while.  I wonder what the first thing they saw was, maybe the face of Jesus, their guide, the ground, the sun?  I don’t know.  But, I can imagine how precious that memory would be to them.  I’m asking God to remove my own blinders, to heal my “eyes” (my spiritual view) so that I may see clearly and see what He wants me to see.  

Monday, October 26, 2009

Seventeen Days – What to Pack

As I said yesterday, I’m getting ready for the Great Banquet.  Preparing to go, I will make my “normal” list of things to pack, have a map to get there, phone numbers just in case – I like to be prepared.
All of those things are needed, I mean clean socks, underwear, and a toothbrush are absolute necessities.  Still, my bigger packing list needs to include some other things.  I need to make sure that I have prepared my heart (kind of like doing the laundry).  “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalms 51:10.  So, what I get from that is that God has to clean my heart and restore me. 
Digging a little deeper, to clean my heart – I think of cleaning the kitchen or the bathroom.  I use strong cleansers that remove germs and kitchen spills.  Psalms 51 talks about cleansing with hyssop.  I’ve never seen hyssop, so I did a little research on this plant.  It’s a bushy evergreen with several uses.  The flower tops were used for an expectorant, to help heal bruises and cuts, diaphoretic (induces sweating), pectoral (medicine for respiratory disorders like asthma), carminative (gets rid of gas – relieves the pressure and pain), and to help relieve rheumatism pain.  There are also several time that it is mentioned that this plant produces a wonderful aromatic smell, something refreshing.  So, if I ask God to clean me with hyssop, it is much more than cleaning the surface, it’s a complete cleansing from the inside and out. 
“…Let the bones you have crushed rejoice” (Psalms 51:10b).  Has God crushed your bones before?  Imagine how painful it would be to have a bone crushed.  That type of injury wounds so severely that without proper and extensive treatment, there is a real possibility of permanent damage.  Why would God crush bones?  Well, sometimes an injury requires further injury before healing.  If a bone is not set properly, there are consequences, even though it may mean further pain at first.  But, here David talks about the bones God has crushed, and if someone is going to crush my bones – I would prefer God rather than anyone else.  He is the Great Healer after all! 
Okay – so, here we are at day 17, and I’m asking for my heart to be cleansed, so that I am ready for what will be poured into me by Him in a few weeks.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

18 Days Till…

In 18 days I will throw my bag into the car and head to the Great Banquet in Peoria.  Sponsored for this women’s retreat weekend, the idea is based around the parable in Luke of the Great Banquet.  If you aren’t familiar with it, the story goes like this…
Luke 14: 15 - 24
When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, "Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God."  Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.'  "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.'  "Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.'  "Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'  "The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'  “‘Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.'  "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.  I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.' "

I don’t know about you, but I have had my times when the banquet was spread out for me, the invitation was sent and then at the last minute – I waffled and didn’t go.  Oh Lord, thank you for the invitation, I’d really love to   (fill in the blank)   but, I’m tired, busy, disagreeing, ignoring, etc…  But, really the invitation was just so thoughtful.  And at other times, I’ve been one of the poor, crippled, blind, and lame who is ushered into a feast that is so extraordinary that I am overwhelmed.
This is part of the reason I am so excited to go.  I am at a time in my life where the chapters are changing.  The last three years consisted of hectic schedules with work and school, growing, and learning.  That part of my life is done, the degree in hand, and no more nights of economic math.  But now, what to do? 
Have you ever felt that you were standing between the last page of a chapter in your life story and the introductory page of the next chapter?  You have clear sight of what has happened, though there may still be ripples and ramifications that are not understandable yet.  Still, the new chapter has not progressed to the point that you are sure where the plot will lead and so, there at the metaphorical literary cross roads you stand.  There I stand.

So, in the next 18 days, I’m going to start focusing this writing a bit more on preparing for the Great Banquet and what that means.  It will be the turn of a page for me, to be a bit farther in this next chapter.  

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Highways of Light

Most of my life, I have lived away from my extended family.  This means that there were seasonal trips, varying in hours of length, along highways back to where family lives.  As a little girl, sitting in the back seat of our car, I would watch the street lights go past.  Light, fade, fade, light, fade, fade, light fade, fade.  There were stretches where those carefully placed lights seemed to form another roadway above us.
Last night, out in the fall rain, the pavement caught the light of lamps, car lights, and windows.  They reflected back up into the light autumn rain, creating a haze that if you watched carefully would show you specks of color, pulses of light.  It brought back the idea of highways of light to my mind.  Sitting there, buckled into the back seat of my parents car, those light posts looked as if they were stretching out the foundations of a dual path, a roadway made of light. 

Friday, October 23, 2009

The fourth time is the charm….

I had to laugh last night when I opened up my devotion to read and spend some time with God before shutting off the light and getting some sleep.  There it was, in black and white – Romans 12:2 – “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” 
I always pray that when God would like me to know or do something, I ask Him to please be very clear.  I have normal human hearing, normal human vision and so I can both be deaf, blind, and easily …. ooohhhhh shiny….. distracted.  This last weekend was the Missions Conference at church.  There were several speakers, fun music, fellowship, food, and a good time was had by most.  But, what I found so interesting and why I say the fourth time is the charm is because I heard Romans 12:2 in very personal and moving ways over three days – only to be followed up by this devotional by Evelyn Christenson. 
Over the last few months, I have been praying with increasing feelings of the importance to be more faithful in this, to seek God fervently.  Then, we started off on Saturday evening with Bread of Life missions.  There was an introduction of the mission, what they are going through and a little of the people they minister too.  I found myself moving to the edge of the pew, straining for the next word, wanting to know more.  The passion and faith which these men had was something that spread over the room like a sweet wind. 
The next morning, that evening, and then Monday at a Women’s Soup Supper, I heard speakers who had not collaborated individually speak on similar topics.  Each was building on the other; God had planned these messages so perfectly.  That led me to last night and opening up the next chapter of my devotion.  There the verse was again – four times in less than four days.  I had to laugh. 
But, what comfort there is in knowing that God is hearing me, that His will is not some hidden like some jester’s toy.  Instead, it was made abundantly clear.  I laughed with joy, and felt a rush inside my heart of hope that grew stronger.  Hope that will feed faith, trust, and joy inside me and allow me to grow, to seek, and learn.  And thankfully – while my vision, hearing, and attention span are not perfect, God will tell me the same thing over and over until I finally get it.  

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I live in a small town, not a bad thing really, just a nice little town tucked into the Mississippi River.  And like many small river towns, there are historical buildings, telling the story of the town through lines of architecture.  They tell the story of a time when the modest downtown was full of prosperous stores, when there was a bustle and the best of the homes were on the street the next hill up.  Now, many of the buildings have fallen into disrepair.  It’s really quite a sad thing.
The other day, I was walking back to my car from work and had my camera with me, as I often do.  I was stopping to take a few pictures and enjoy the color.  Something about having a camera lens in front of me makes me look differently at the world.  I focus differently, seeing details, colors, possibilities.  One building in particular always catches my eye.  Oh, to my glance when I am walking down the sidewalk into work or back to my car, I see white boards covering windows on a bricked building in sad shape.  But, when I have a camera in hand, I can see the possibility take shape.  Remove the white boards, peel them back like an onions skin to reveal the beauty of structure underneath.  Then, send in someone with a deft hand to repair the brick.  Another can lend elbow, bicep, wrist, and finger power to scrubbing the grime away, making the windows gleam.  Replace the broken with the new, keeping the feel and integrity of the old.  I imagine inside putting down hardwood floors, soft lighting in the windows and brightly colored woven woolens on table tops and covering the backs of rocking chairs.  I imagine adding some iron scrollwork to the side, a porch to wrap around and hold hanging baskets of flowers, like a garland about its neck.  On the roof is a garden and small atrium, so that if you look at it from the ground, it appears to have a soft green mossy hair rather than clay blocks that suddenly and abruptly stops.  Around the sides, small fruit trees will be planted; sweet smelling blossoms swell upwards in the breeze and have delicately arched canopy sprays.  I imagine that inside there are several entrepreneurs taking up there place, as if they are in appointed positions.  Glass blowing and painting here, authors there, weaving cloth, metal working, and clay still over in that place, turning this way for art, that way for talent, showcasing abilities and welcoming those who would seek to learn trades that are becoming less and less common.  The front doors are replaced from the old broken down doors are now made of stained glass jeweled flecks, clear glass and the most beautiful pieces of wood, put together to act like giant welcoming eyes.  A fern, with of course lots of character – as ferns should always have, sits in the foyer at the base of a wooden and cylindrical and rolled iron staircase.   A string of lanterns are about the building, casting soft lights in the dark and architectural benefits in the light.
I can see the possibility – just like God can see the possibility in us.  There are people we look at and assume pretty much that they are just a worn out old abandoned building of a human being, not a someone but an anyone, or even perhaps a nobody.  But, God looks at us through the lens and sees the possibility, the potential.  Before you discount the next empty building person you meet, take a moment to look at God’s perspective.  The next time you think of your self that way – take a good long look at yourself with God’s camera. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Guided by the Lion

I have a few authors that are like old friends to me, reading their words over and over until they are part of my thought patterns.  Tolkien is one, C.S. Lewis is becoming another.  I recently finished reading The Horse and His Boy, which can be perceived as a children’s book – but really has layers of meaning.  There is a character woven through the story, a lion who the protagonist finds over and over, but interacts with him, without knowing that it is the same lion over and over. 
At the end of the story (if you haven’t read the book – stop here and go read it so I don’t ruin part of the story), the lion comes back…
Okay – I warned you…. progress further only at your own risk…..
The lion shows himself at the end to the main character and explains how he has been there all along, guiding him, changing his path, providing warmth, providing protection, teaching, and moving him to a new direction. 
In my own life, the lion has moved me off my path before.  Right now, I’m nursing along what has become affectionately known as a cobble hobbled ankle.  It’s cobble because I injured it on a cobble stone street thus leading to the hobble.  I read the Lewis book yesterday, finishing today and found myself wondering where my path was being directed.  I don’t believe in coincidence, in mis-happen could have been a chance type mind sets.  So, what is it that my path changed from, where to?  I don’t know right now.  Instead, it is my job to wait well.  It is my job to soak up the warmth from the lion rather than walk along to the next mountain.  In this time, I can continue my reading and writing, continue my seeking and searching.  And when the lion tells me to move again, I will be ready.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

משפחה ~ Mishpahca

Family – that word brings out so many different reactions in people.  Complicated, wonderful, extended, messy, immediate, missing, too close, never again, wish I had, I have too much of….. Such a fantastic word, and when done well – such a breathtaking creation.  משפחה is the Hebrew word Mishpahca, or family; six letters that convey generations of stories, baggage, and hope. 
I think that it is helpful to have sort of a blanket term for such an abstract concept.  Family can be blood relatives, kin, and the family of faith.  A Missions Conference at church was started a few nights ago with speakers from a local ministry and one from Mexico.  Both missionary speakers were wonderful and the information they shared was both encouraging and challenging.  At the end, during the last song, we gathered round the missionaries as the musicians played and prayed.  Mishpahca, family – not of my blood, but of God’s blood.  Family that is at a much higher price, a much greater cost, and is led by God were gathered tonight before God.  Mishpahca was shown as people united in prayer, in hope, in family.
My own blood family, my Mishpahca, is very special to me.  We gather round each other when there are celebrations and over hurts.  Food is delivered for new babies, sickness, and when grieving.  And there is no sound quite as sweet as sitting in the kitchen, singing with family as the work needs to get done, listening to each part of harmony.  It’s about being there and making the effort.  I’m thankful for my Mishpahca.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Wild Things

In my life, there are two beautiful Labrador retrievers, a chocolate brown lab that is older and quite reserved and a younger yellow lab pup. 

Megan, the chocolate, is my princess pup who holds herself in reserve, not wanting to do anything quite as common as running through mud puddles.  It’s really quite funny to open the door and watch her look out, look at me as if to say – “Ewwwww I will get my feet wet, I’ll hold it.  Thank you very much!”  Actually, she’s a lot tougher than most realize as she is also the one who has evicted (rather forcefully and permanently) a few of the neighboring groundhogs.  Megan has gotten lost overnight once, and that can be real stress for this pampered pooch (not to mention her person).  But, the thrill of the chase filled her mind and she went over a low fence, through neighbor yards until quite lost.  The next day, we got her back from the local Humane Society, where she was deposited after a ride in a police car.  I understand that she tried to get into the local ER – smart girl, headed for lights and people!  Yes, my sweet pampered girl has fully recovered from her moment of stress.  Now, it’s back to princess Megan, who watches TV (yes she really does know what is on the TV), prefers pillows and likes to be talked to.  I have a feeling that she humors me about half the time, the puppy the other half, but secretly wants to be in the center of attention – so long as she doesn’t have to get her feet wet that is.
Sierra, the Super Puppy, is not even a year old yet, but has these long legs that just won’t stop growing.  If you aren’t familiar with labs, they are puppies for two years, and require a substantial store of patience in that time. However, if you can hold on (and keep a large supply of chew toys and trash bags), you can have a great dog at the end of that time.  Sierra, is a blur much of the time as she is full of energy in every fiber, and is either full go or sound asleep.  Just like any other kid, she wants to play and lots of attention.  However, any of Megan’s disdain for dirt is bounded right over by Sierra as she finds the biggest mud puddles to jump and roll in.  That dirt may even be worth the bath that surely will follow.  Actually, the furry energy blur is quite loving and is eager to say hello and good-morning and come play with me.  It’s just that her approach is not always appreciated as it normally means that 70 plus pounds are flailed at you with four feet and a big sloppy kiss all at the same time.  And just like any other little energy filled wild child, she is absolutely adorable when asleep. 
They are the Wild Things, the sweet furry things, the table clearing (thus the trash bags) things, the bed sleeping pillow hog things, they are the sweet and wet dog kiss giver things, and always happier when they are with their people things.  Yes, they are the wild things – the personality filled, big expressive eyed, carrot and green bean loving things.  They are the wild things with a big spot in my heart.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Unsteady Steadiness of Time

Tick tock, tick tock, it’s the key to Captain Hook and the Tell Tale Heart, the Grandfather Clock in the hall of a grandparent’s home, and time that keeps slipping ahead. Each moment is exactly as long as the one before, 60 moments ticked out on a metronome of seconds, minutes, hours, days, stretching out to centuries.

But, time is anything but a steady tick tock momentary minuet, which is static in its movement. Instead, it fluctuates, skipping and dancing about one moment, the next dragging it’s measured feet in an achingly slow cadence. This past week has gone in bursts of busy, where thirty minutes have seemed like five, an hour seems like ten minutes, and one minute seems like an hour.

In my life, I have also seen the times vary with speed. It’s been six weeks since this ankle was sprained, and the healing seems so slow, as if it were truly following a proverbial feeling of dragging its feet. It was the first week without the boot and probably not a great week for that to happen as it also corresponded to a workshop at work. In other words, that means a lot of walking for me. By Friday, I had smashed down the heel of my shoe and wearing it as a make-shift clog to relieve some of the pressure that I was feeling due to swelling, hoping that the next step wouldn’t feel like a needle in the ankle or fire in my knee. Okay – so we have established that it is uncomfortable, if not down right painful.

Six weeks, a moment in the span of things. I suppose it’s all about perspective. Perspective – my view point of what is going on, of what is happening, and then I process all that and make a choice of how to respond. So, six weeks – physical therapy is getting ready to start and hopefully will make a big and for the better type of change in my leg. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping up my perspective and attitude of being grateful for people around me who surprise me with doing really helpful things, not because they have to – but because they know it hurts and that they can help.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Just Like a Ripe Blueberry

The Disney movie, The Rocketman, has a rather predictable but hilarious character in Fred Randall. Fred, the typical geeky computer guy with a great heart is the main character and appears on the scene partially blue from being sucked into the toilet. You just have to watch the movie to understand. But, he looks at earth and compares it to a ripe blueberry, something that you hold so gently in your palm.
While I have not had the particular pleasure of comparing the earth to a ripe blueberry from space, I have had the chance from the air. The lines that I see on maps fade out and everything is seen from a much different view.
Technology has offered some different views as well. As I sat the other night, chatting with a friend in Ohio, looking at pictures of a friend in Florida, and challenging another to a game of Tetris, it once again surprised me at how very small the world has become. Technology, though it may seem to sterilize our communication at time when losing the emotional face to face interaction, allows quick and daily views into each other’s lives. We can even link in information from the Department of State to hear about what is going on in the government, see new exhibits with the Smithsonian, read the latest in professional journals, as well as read and watch about our own local town’s goings on.
I wonder if as we progress down the paths of technology, if the value of our face to face time will increase even more. I know there are predictions of how we will lose the ability to communicate except via technology. But, as something becomes more rare, it generally becomes more precious. I wonder if instead of typing classes, high schools will now have communication curriculum. I can read the class catalogue now, Day to Day Speaking 101: how to speak to your classmate without a computer in hand. Okay, so a bit of sarcastic tongue in cheek tone there, but really it may be the opposite of the predictions. We may learn to utilize the technology better, to facilitate communication rather than lose aspects of it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Just 86 days Till

Grab the calendar, the red and green markers, and starting counting the days – Christmas times a comin’, Christmas times a comin’, Christmas times a comin’, It won’t be very long…..

Don’t roll your eyes and turn away quite yet – I promise I’m not skipping Thanksgiving or any other fall wonder. Fall is my favorite season. But, it’s only 86 days till!! Soon, the trees will be coming out, the decorations, the ornaments, and the nativities. It’s with the chocolate covered pretzels and Christmas music playing raucously in the background that the white lights are unwound from their box and rewound around the tree. The house starts smelling like cookies and cinnamon, pine tree candles, and vanilla. Sweetly sentimental memory laden figures come back, bringing memories of family members near and far.

But, long before all of that happens, the Christmas cards need to start. Yes – it is time for me to pull out the address book and the ink pens, and the bright colored cards. It takes time to write a note in a card, to think about someone for a few moments, to pause over a blank card and think about the recipient. Then, pen to paper, ink flowing and the words spill out. Words of hope, words of season joy that I really would like to keep in my heart all year long, words of family, and words of memory.

Yes, just 86 days till – it’s time to get the cards started, time to start planning ahead…. Oh well, maybe I’ll wait a few more weeks…..

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Street Side View

A neighbor on my street, a dozen or houses so down the pavement, has a brown plaid couch sitting on the grass – near the road, waiting for trash pick up. It’s wooden arms are shiny with the moistness of frost and the brown and yellow tinged plaid looks fine, but I’m sure if I stopped and sat down it would be squishy with the morning dampness.

Wondering as I drive past, if I were sitting on that couch what would I see? The last few days, I have been leaving the house early, and the kids gather at the bus stop to get to the high school. Sitting in that spot, I could hear them walking past, the banter and laughter, the trudge and sighs of another angst ridden homework filled teenage day, and the hop of the younger children as they head to the elementary school. Cars, vans, jeeps, trucks, and parents wander past with children and sometimes dog leashes in hand. Once school is in session, sounds would change. The quieter sounds would stroll through, leaves blowing down the street with their unique rattle, neighborhood sounds of doors and dogs, tools and wood being split for winter. School recess activities, and then picking all the kids up again at the end of the day.

If I could pick that couch up, shrink it, stick it in my pocket and move it someplace else, to watch – where would I go? Let’s see – I think first I would go and put the couch on a hill top in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I would watch the buffalo move across the plains and through the valleys. Perhaps an antelope would even come close and graze if I sat really still. Then, off to Ottawa – in front of the Chateau Laurier to watch the coming and goings. High tea would be enjoyed from my seat while listening to the pipes and drums playing in the Memorial Park across the street. Puppy class, here in town, watching the dogs go through their lessons and their people are trained. They are such funny creatures to watch as they learn, the pups are as well.

It would be rather interesting to be able to have a sort of magical view spot to stop and watch and see. But of course, the real fun doesn’t come sitting on the couch – it is from getting up and participating.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


It was on a Christmas visit home nearly 17 years ago when I first met someone that would become a friend and then a sister. Sisters don’t always mean that you have the same blood in your veins. Sometimes, it’s sisters of the heart.
I can’t imagine what my life would be like without her. Who else can stay up with me till 2 AM, watching movies, giggling and sipping tea? Who else lets me help tuck her baby boy in and sing harmony to her lullaby? Who else knows what you are saying when you are crying or laughing so hard that you are crying? Who else stays up until 1 AM making the best apple cake you will ever taste? Who else has sweet memories of Fourth of July in Florida, staying up all night talking, or being able to send a one word message and being absolutely clear?
Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:16-17”
I have a sister. She is a good part of my life, the friendship is a sweet gift between us.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lyrics & Songs

Last night I heard four women raise their voice in song, musicians lift instruments to their mouths and fill them with air or graze them with their hands and pure beauty come out. Sitting on the edge of my sweet, I could feel my body surrender to the rhythm, swaying in my stadium style seat, toe tapping the metal flooring, and hands clapping together. When these four women sang together, when the violinist joined them – there was something so incredible about the combination, sweet as honey and smooth as a spring rain.

I watched and thought about how these great talents required the musicians and women to step out at some point in their lives, to make a choice. If we knew we would not fail, what risks would we take? How many more entrepreneurs would their be, how many more explorers, how many more adventurers? You know the adventurer who writes a book, paints a picture, or sings a song.

If I would take an adventure, an expedition, a journey, or even a step and knew that it was both God’s will and could not fail – what would I do? Oh – the possibilities! And how inspiring these women were.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Deer

Outside the window, there are 5 little deer eating. They stop by and nibble on the corn that is out for them, hitting the bird feeder with their nose to knock any possible food out. I love watching these big eyed creatures wander through the back-yard.

I had an opportunity to see a very new deer up and close just a few years ago. A new spotted fawn had been placed by it's mother in our front yard and told to stay. The mother left and people started noticing this beautiful life in the grass and gathered at a distance. All of that activity would discourage the mother from coming back and the sun was shining on this little creature leaving it panting. Finally, everyone disbursed, but the mother still didn't come back. A neighbor came with gloves and that baby was moved so carefully to a protected area, with high leaves. The next morning, it was gone and there were deer tracks in the area.

That brand new deer was staying put, even where people were gathering around, because it's parent told it to. The mother was putting the baby someplace safe and then going to eat. Parents, being human, make mistakes - but our Father (God the Father), is a perfect parent. I need to be ready to listen to him, to follow instructions. He will put me someplace and say - grow, learn, water, plant, flourish, praise. I choose at that point if I will do this or if I will rebel and say - why did you put me here? When I rebel, I am left with that hot sun, panting feeling - lost and strangers about. When I seek God's will, accept it, and move in it - I am in the safe sheltered area.

I do love watching those furry creatures outside the window.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Celebration in the Moment

An action filled word, to celebrate: based on celebrant, celebrare, and celebrationem, and generally carries the connotation of something joyful, honoring, talked about, and festivities. To celebrate in the moment, is to realize that the moment is fleeting and irreplaceable. It is also a mind set, not based on emotion, but a choice of how to respond.

I remember hearing someone once talk about eternity. Standing in a large room, he strung a piece of yarn from one wall to the other and asked us to imagine that that was a small piece of eternity. Then, on that string, he pinched one section and that half inch, that is our life on earth. It’s a tiny spot.

So, knowing that it is short-lived, we start looking at moments, micro-measurements along the thread. Today was the first snow – October 10 and snow arrived! I can moan and groan about not being ready for winter to come, wanting warm weather still, or I can choose to celebrate the moment. Instead of moaning, I slipped on the big rubber farm boots and went out with the dogs. The pup thought that a million white butterflies had arrived and was giddy with excitement. She chased snow flakes, jumping up and down, pouncing the swirls, and just standing back in awe at her first view of that frozen white wonder. I thought it was a great example of how I can look at life. I can moan and groan about something unexpected, or something that I wasn’t ready for – or I can jump in and choose to celebrate.

Sometimes, things occur that are hard or painful. We may bring it on ourselves or we may be feeling the effects of what someone else has done to us. How do we celebrate in that? We celebrate that there is redemption even in the worst of things for us and for others. We celebrate that God is always with us, and provides the shelter and answers we most need right at the perfect time, though in often unexpected ways. We can choose to celebrate learning from this time, learning from the past and having a better future.

It’s the first snow – let’s celebrate it!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Window Watcher

Pushing back from my desk, its lunch time! My stomach is growling as I head down the hall to the front door and then off to my car. On my way there, I look up at a senior assisted living apartment complex. If I leave at noon, there is often a woman in one of those windows, looking out on the street below. I wave, she waves back. I wonder what she thinks as she looks out.

Last week, I looked up and she wasn’t there. The potted plant was still hanging in the window, framing glass in green strands and leaves. I found myself wondering about that woman. Was she okay? Was she on a trip? Did she go someplace for lunch?

Somehow, this woman became my neighbor. I’ve never met her; we have only waved off and on at each other for the last year. But, yet – somehow she is my neighbor. Now, as I walk past, I pray for her and for her day. I pray for her health and that there are other things in that room beside the plant that make it feel homey.

I wonder – who will be the next new neighbor that arrives in my life.

Friday, October 9, 2009

They Had Nothing Left To Say To Each Other

Have you checked out the writing prompts online? One of them caught my attention…. “They had nothing to say to each other.” So, with that in mind:

They had nothing to say to each other. They had everything to say to each other. The thoughts that needed to be spoken hung in the air, as if the air itself would soon force them to speak or remove it’s oxygen from them. Where to begin though, if you couldn’t begin to speak?

They had been friends for years, and then everything changed and life split them apart. Words were reduced to a few stilted conversations here and there. Slowly, the discussions, at first long-winded about life and family became shorter and shorter, more sporadic in their arrival. But, now the chance to speak, it was gone. Too much separated them and the casual comfort that once existed was now gone.

Staring through the wooden slats on the deck railing, he looked into the brown eyes of his friend. A space that they could not breach separated them, and now they had nothing to say. The good-byes had been said. The wooden slats braced his head as he leaned forward one more time. The moving van had come, the house had been packed up, and it was time to get into the van to drive to his new home.

One more glance back at his friend, the black lab turned and trotted up to his person, tail wagging and ready to approach his new adventure. His people were taking him for a ride! Good-bye to his friend Rusty, the chocolate lab next door, sat on his deck and watched his friend leave. Maybe a new neighbor dog would come that he could be friends with. No, there was nothing left to say.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Great Painter

Ever since I can remember, every fall I have heard the story of the Great Painter. Every fall, the leaves slowly change from their chlorophyll full green to their real shade of yellow, red, orange, and tan. The Great Painter paints each leaf; each is its own work of art – unique and special. If the leaves stayed green, we would miss the colors of fall.

Life changes too, colors of transformation. I think about ten years ago, 5 years ago, or yesterday. Each day is unique; each is its own piece of art. I can think of some days that are kind of orange, filled with warmth. They remind me of days with fire rings, low bonfires with potatoes roasting in the coals, a pile of marshmallows ready to be licked by flames and caramelized.

The yellow leaves, sunny in color are some of my favorites. Like bits of sunshine caught all the way into the cell walls of the leaf, they hold color of sweet Indian summer days, holding bits of tantalizing warmth. I’ve had some yellow leaf days, days that are full of brightness, laughter, and friendship.

Caught on misty wet sidewalks, the tan leaves stick to the concrete. They are the misty, rainy days that declare it is necessary to grab a soft blanket and go back to bed. Candle light, a fire in the stove, sweatshirts, and warm soup are all needed on the tan days. Tan days are the blah, ho-hum days. There may be some tears, there may be some wishing for different colors. These are also the days to be thankful for the other colors.

As the Great Painter paints the leaves, and the days – I’m hoping for lots of orange and yellow days, but know that there will be some tan days as well. After all, how could they orange and yellow be as sweet without them?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Broken Hallelujah

There is a song I ran across recently, well maybe listened across would be a better description. I saw the title when looking for new songs by a favorite artist of mine, Mandisa. I saw the title, Broken Hallelujah, and had to investigate the words.
“With my love and my sadness Yet I trust in this moment
I come before You Lord You’re with me somehow
My heart’s in a thousand pieces And You’ve always been faithful
Maybe even more So Lord even now

When all that I can sing
Is a broken hallelujah
When my only offering
Is shattered praise
Still a song of adoration
Will rise up from these ruins
I will worship You and give You thanks
Even when my only praise
Is a broken hallelujah

Oh Father, You have given How could I doubt Your goodness
Much more than I deserve Your wisdom, Your grace
And I have felt Your hand of blessing So Lord hear my heart
On me at every turn In this painful place


I lift my voice
Your Spirit moves
I raise my hands
I reach for You

I love the words in this song! It is easy to praise when things are going well, when the sun is right and life is good. It is not so easy when days are dark, the rain is pouring down on my head. But, what I love the most about this song is the reminder that the Lord is still good, He is still wise, He is still mercy and grace. My day yesterday was a good one. I accomplished a lot at work, had some nice time with family, spoke to a friend. I spent time with God, I spent time taking care of myself. It was an easy day to praise. Tomorrow may not be so good. It may be a hard day, a day when I just wish I were able to go back to bed and start over. How good it is to know even then that God is still there and still good. And when the ruins are there, stones toppled and dust coating the ground, destruction around. But, God is able to repair and rebuild. And when He does – His architecture is perfect. The design isn’t ours, but His! And therefore, it is completely perfect. So, no matter where the day leads, I choose to let God plan the design and I choose to praise Him regardless.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Crickets, a soft wind, the crackle of a fire, frogs singing their tunes, the sweetness of silence only comes when I slow myself down. Slowing down, that is so hard to do, though I’m not sure why. Have you ever tried to just be still and quiet for a little while? If I sit down for a little while, I find myself either only faking stillness with my body while my mind whirs at its normal speed or I fall asleep.

But, I need stillness. Prayer is a conversation with God. I’ve been in very few conversations that are good and while only being one way. I seem to stay awake and manage to concentrate when I’m pouring out my heart to God, but when I stop to listen to Him – it’s not so easy.

I stopped today for just two minutes to be quiet and listen. What a long two minutes! I’m going to have to work up to a longer time period. Then I think – that’s terrible, two minutes! My creator, my Lord who knows the number of hairs on my head, every prayer before I pray – and I have a hard time with over two minutes!

I’m going to make a choice, an effort, to spend time listening to God. To spend time in the quiet until it’s not so quiet. But, instead it is a time to be filled with the sound of God’s voice, sweeter than the songs of the frogs, the fire, and the crickets on a quiet evening.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Gift

My grandfather has been ill most of my life, struggling with various health problems. Living away, there have been many times where I’ve missed seeing and participating in the good days, the good months, the good years. But, on a recent trip home, I and my family were given a gift.

Sitting in a welcoming church, the pew I sit in has held many over the years. These pews were the ones my parents grew up in, though they are padded now. I know the smell, the sound of feet on the floor, the shoe and wood meeting. The pulpit has a familiar look to it. My grandfather preached here, loving the people that were part of his flock. He prayed for them, worked with them, grew them. But, for years he has been primarily home bound.

Coming in for the trip, I was pleased to see my family, my grandparents. We spent time with them at their home and then at a family brunch. I didn’t think that we would see them again that next day, after all that much activity would most likely be too tiring.

But, here I was singing, the hymnal open in front of me, watching the singers in front of me. One of these was my Aunt Tess, who I saw burst into tears. What caused that? What was going on? Following her gaze, I found myself turning around and watching my grandparents walk into the church. I could feel the tears hit the back of my own eyes at that point. What a gift it was to be able to have them there, to see them again in that place. I enjoyed singing with my family, but I really was given a gift to be able to sing with my family to both sets of my grandparents.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


The way I view someone, even without really meaning it to be, is focused on what is outside. I see how they are dressed, how they present themselves, cleanliness, and expression - outward things. Okay, I'll be honest, attractiveness plays in there too. Smile people, make a positive impression! What I see is on the outside and can be totally misleading.

I can dress up, put on the best outfit where the lines fall just right, a great pair of shoes, hose, some time with the flat iron and various hair products. Lotion and then make-up, just a bit of mascara, lipstick and gloss, all applied with expert precision. Grab the perfect little bag and wah-lah - the person I am presenting you helps to create a positive perception. Or, if you would have seen me Monday night, just a bystander and fellow shopper at Wal-Mart, you would have seen me in over-sized grey sweat pants that have a few little holes in the knees. A pink t-shirt collar showed around the grey sweat shirt, again oversized for comfort. The hair was not done and therefore at poofy odd angles. A tan shoe on my right foot, my boot on my left to keep the ankle supported, no make-up and a pained if not determined look on my face. What would the perspective be there? For someone who didn't know me, it could be completely different. Thankfully, God doesn't see my limited perspective when he looks at me or you. Instead, he is looking much deeper and broader.

What does God see when he looks at me. Oh Lord - don't look at me! I am much more the sweat pant person than the swirly skirt perfect hair person. I am messy and messed up sinful fall on my face person. But, God sees me in His image! HIS image - how is that possible? How could he love me so much that he could see past they layers of problems, insecurities, hopes, dreams, and head strong stubbornness? I am thankful that he does! I need to start looking at myself like God looks at me. That means I can't ignore the difficulties, but will go out and face them, knowing that God's strength is on my side. That also means that I get to see God's perfect plan for me, His perfect will. What do you see if you look at yourself from God's perspective? I know someone who sells themselves short. A growing faith, funny and boisterous bounce in each step, I love the activity and watching the activity and bustle. But, if you listen to the perception it is focused on all the past problems, past failures and successes, past hurts, past hopes. It hurts to see someone that I care about look through human eyes and (even worse), the critical eyes that are around. God doesn't see that when he looks at my friend - he sees someone who is precious to Him, someone worth dying for, someone forgiven, and someone loved. I'll stick my glasses on or my contacts in, in my prayer life asking God to give me a better perspective.

I'm tackling a new book, about the life of David. I love the title of one of the chapters, David and the Dwarf. You might have heard the story of this shepherd boy who goes out to face this giant who was nearly 10 feet tall. NBA agents would be swarming this guy with his build, athleticism, and confidence. Then, there is David. Just a regular old shepherd boy, the youngest of the sons, and one that tends to be forgotten about at that. David goes out and faces the giant. Everyone else sees a giant. But, God saw that Goliath was though physically imposing, was really much weaker than David. David had an opportunity to see Goliath, the Giant, through God's perspective. I want to see through God's perspective. Let's go get our eyes checked together and learn to look together. What is it that is a giant to me, but is really dwarfed in God's sight?