Brenda, my good friend at work, got a call early this morning in her cubicle across from mine. She couldn't understand her daughter because of her crying, and once she could make out her words she screamed, No! No! and started sobbing herself. Brenda's sister Betty had been murdered in Florida. Betty had called the police earlier because her neighbor was so angry with her for slamming her door while he was sleeping. She was scared of him - the detectives later told my friend that he was schizophrenic. So Betty had her friend stay with her until 8 o'clock, and when her friend went to check on her a half hour later she was lying beaten and stabbed to death in her tub. Betty had moved to Florida to escape her abusive husband. My friend Brenda hurts even more thinking about how glad she was that her sister had escaped the violence.

Just yesterday we had a department meeting; a very unusual one. Don knew there were some problems, personality conflicts and an unwillingness to work together as a team. So he talked about how he loved us all, and that we must work together by holding that kind of love for each other. He talked about how we're all family and we have to be open with each other and support each other. Pretty unusual for a boss to say things like that, don't you think? He's an exceptional man, our boss. Today after Brenda left, after we had all circled around her and hugged and held her, and prayed with her, someone mentioned that it must have been a God thing that we had that discussion yesterday.

This afternoon Brenda called me and said she was thinking about coming in to work tomorrow and I told her that Don wouldn't let her do that. Don was right there and he got on the phone and said, You're NOT coming in tomorrow. Don's never forceful, but he was when insisting one of his employees stay home and take care of herself. Brenda told me that she thought it might relieve some stress to come to work. I told her that if she needed to get away that I'd take to her lunch and go with her to get some things done for her sister's funeral or whatever she wanted. You take care of everyone, she told me. You're my Jesus Walker. Oh my God. I am so not a Jesus Walker...one who my friend believes walks with you and shows you Christ. I am just a friend, and even when I wanted to pray with her no words came out, and I let Dave do the praying. I couldn't even think to pray, and I felt guilty that I couldn't think how to pray. But I'm praying now, God. Help my friend and her family find some kind of peace in the midst of unspeakable tragedy and heartbreak.


Good gig, God

Hey. There was a little craziness going on in my life for a few days - lots of murky and swirling emotions, nice things that turned not so nice - you know. Stuff. In the midst of the stirred-up pond bottom things, I was working on a new freelance gig - my first ever CD design for a local band. A lot, lot, lot of detail goes into such a small product. But through it all, I was loving the work, and loved having a job that was related to the music biz. Another nice little "small world isn't it?" thing is that this CD will be sent to our local NPR station with my Goodrich Design moniker attached to it, and the recipient will be one of the cohosts of the "Grassroots" program - a woman who was married to my twin and is still one of my best friends. This was a great gig, God. Thanks.


Valentine's Day Blessings

Michael called me in the afternoon, which through me a bit, because he never calls me in the afternoon. He asked what I did at lunch time, and I told him about my trip to Barnes and Noble to buy my son a book for Valentine's Day, and another book for a little friend of mine who turned one-year-old today. One of his girls has a birthday today too, so we talked about how he was buying Valentines for all the girls in his family. And then it dawned on me. "Are you calling me because it's Valentine's Day?" He said yes, but that he hadn't bought me anything. I said I hadn't gotten him anything either. But I was so surprised and so touched that this special friend of mine would call me for Valentine's Day. What a gift. What a blessing. Radical gratitude for a loving phone call.

Near the end of the day I was talking to Carman on the phone. He wished me a Happy Valentine's Day and said that he'd do the dishes as a gift for me. (I didn't mention, of course, that he's supposed to do them anyway, but just thanked him.) A few minutes later I turned around in my little cubicle when I heard a noise, and there was my 16-year-old standing there with a beautiful long-stemmed rose in hand. He said he didn't just want to write me a poem this year, he wanted to buy me something. What an incredible blessing he is to his mother!

I drove home under sunny skies and mild weather, with a hint of springtime in the air, a rose tucked next to me in the passenger seat, and tears of joy and thankfulness. I am so lucky to see God's love in so many places - how can my heart not be pierced with humble gratefulness for all I have.


Dishwashing with reverence

This article from gratefulness.org seemed apt for me after I was lamenting dishwashing not long ago. I must learn to do it as experiential worship!

This July Brother David was head dishwasher at Tassajara, and before he left he entirely revised the washing ritual and retrained the students. Later, from his home monastery in Western New York, Mount Saviour, he sent the work foreman his suggestions for future dishwashers. They ranged from "a little vinegar in the rinse water makes the glasses sparkle," and "the cats do appreciate the milk left in the glasses from the guest table;" to "We should listen to the sound of the water and the scrubbing, to the various sounds the dishes make when they hit each other. The sounds of our work tell us much about our practice... Most people dislike dishwashing. Maybe they can learn to appreciate the touch of the wooden bowls, the pots and mugs and everything they handle, the weight of what we lift up and set down, the various smells and sound. St. Benedict, the Patriarch of Western monks, says that in a monastery every pot and pan should be treated with the same reverence as the sacred vessels on the altar."



Outside, the snow;
a vast ocean rising,
a sculpted white sea,
sinuous and cresting.
Angels, with whispered wings,
dust the groundswell,
their etchings gleam
in the moonlight.

We walk under a
pale winter’s moon,
the world hushed by
the ocean’s stillness.
Inhale the sacred silence,
fall softly into
undulating sea,
protected, swaddled,
embraced in
Winter’s womb.


Jeweled Steel

Someday when I grow up I'm going to have a wall of crosses. I so love the work that this artist does at Jeweled Steel. Maybe for my birthday...

Saving the best for last

Tim Hill (thillwl from the ooze) just called. I've been quite remiss in sending him the Sanctuary web files. However, except for assigning me penance, (three Our Fathers and half a dozen Hail Marys now on my to-do list), he was quite gracious about my procrastination.

He started telling me about Sanctuary - they have rented space now, and had their first walk-in visitors last week - whoo hooo! Then we got into a discussion about his teaching as pastor and my work in experiential worship. I told him that I think I could talk about that for hours, and Tim said, I know, it's a passion of yours. It was nice to be reminded of that, because lately I haven't talked or thought as much about my work on our creative team. I've thought about the tasks I need to do - two walls to cover in quotes for our upcoming series, and graphics and a sign to create still. Today I started to get excited as some of the design work started to take shape, but I haven't thought lately about how much I love the whole of experiential worship planning. It was good to be reminded of that. Good to remember that I have the blessing of being involved in something creative that is solely for God.

Tim also told me that several staff from his church plant want to come to Threads sometime soon. When he found out that we're getting our first Kids Community developer, a woman who previously headed children's spiritual development at Westwinds Church in Jackson, he was even more excited about coming here. Unfortunately I don't have much space for overnight guests, but I'm sure people in my small group will pitch in.

And so now that I've used this blog to talk out loud into cyberspace while I'm alone here, I should get the CD artwork done for a musician client, and go back to doing some work for Threads. I'm saving the best for last. :)


The Gloom is but a Shadow

I don't let it sneak up on me like it used to, thankfully. Despair still comes quietly, one soft footstep at a time, one slow, seemingly innocent drip...that is followed by another. I am so weak-willed. Drip. I hate driving in this snow. Drip. I have no self-discipline. Drip. My life is so - fill_in_the_blank_with_something_negative. Depression used to paralyze me until I realized that movement alone thwarted some of the depression. Go clean the bathroom. Rest. All right, go wash the dishes. Rest. Now pick up the phone and call someone. Rest. And moment by moment despair would subside, and slowly slink away.

This morning despair came creeping up, and though I hadn't seen it in awhile, we're still well acquainted enough that I haven't forgotten its face. Do the dishes. As I stood there, my first thought was just how many dishes always seemed to need washing, and then I lamented the fact that in my adult life I've rarely had a dishwasher, and envied those who had. And then I remembered. I have a window. I used to wash dishes in an apartment with no kitchen window. I looked outside while scrubbing a plate, and saw the trees out the windowpane. Lucky me, I live on a treeline separating my mobile home park from the church behind me. Others can only look at other mobile homes. But I get to look at trees! Glorious, wonderful trees, branches bending under the winter's wind, snow curling on the ground below, a hint of light under a pewter sky, and twig's dancing in the breeze.

Radical gratitude. Life changing, life bringing.

Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see. And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look!
~Fra Giovanni Giocondo


My Son, My Dad

Driving home, I was thinking
about telling you
(for the millionth time!)
that you need a shave.
My poor, hirsute, Italian boy.
You were just a child when I
had to purse my lips,
twist my face,
do strangely bizarre contortions
for our shaving lesson.

Here we are, five years later,
and my mind suddenly shouts,
You never taught him how to tie a tie!
And I am appalled at myself.

If your granddad were here,
he'd teach you how to weave a
Full Windsor, a Half Windsor, a Four in Hand.
He'd stand close enough so that
you'd breathe his scent of tobacco and Mennen,
and coffee or Scotch.

He's been gone 34 years today, though.
So I will buy you a tie soon,
and we'll learn this together.
I think God guides single mothers
as they fumble to knot a Half Windsor.

Edit: Right after I wrote that, I went to Larry's blog and saw a link to Don Miller's new book: To Own a Dragon - Reflections on growing up without a father. Maybe Carman's not too old for me to read out loud to him...