I added to a tower of others.
With a deceptively sturdy base it
was so easy to add another yes-can.
It began with a foundation
I could build upon.
It was so simple to add one more
seemingly small, aluminum weight yes.
Yes, I can do that. Yes, I will call.
Yes, I will help. Yes, I can listen.
Yes, I will be there, do that, jump that hoop,
ride that rail, hoist that sail, drive that car.
And one more.
But it got hard to reach the top of the pile.
The stack grew higher
and harder to balance.
And then one inevitable day
a final yes toppled into another.
And suddenly with a rush and roar
The cans of yeses tumbled down.
A waterfall of crashing cans
falling in a metallic scream
that finally echoed into silence.
I heard the calling of the sparrow,
and the singing of the crickets,
the soft brush of an angel’s wing.
And sitting there in my pile of
I could hear God’s whisper,
His voice beckoning,
asking me to follow him.
I only needed to answer
with one single, solitary,
Sacred and holy,
Joyful and liberating,
In his book Return from Tomorrow, George Ritchie talks about meeting a man who'd been a prisoner in the concentration camp where Ritchie was sent as a soldier right at the end of WWII. He talks about the amazing compassion "Wild Bill" had for all his fellow prisoners and how he was regarded as a friend to all. Wild Bill even counseled others to forgive the Germans for the atrocities they'd been through, and said this:
"We lived in the Jewish section of Warsaw. My wife, our two daughters, and our three little boys. When the Germans reached our street they lined everyone up against a wall and opened up with machine guns. I begged to be allowed to die with my family, but because I spoke German they put me in a work group. I had to decide right then whether to let myself hate the soldiers who had done this. It was an easy decision really. I was a lawyer. In my practice I had seen too often what hate could do to people's minds and bodies. Hate had just killed the six people who mattered most to me in the world. I decided then that I would spend the rest of my life - whether it was a few days or many years - loving every person I came in contact with."
Ritchie continues: "Loving every person...this was the power that had kept a man well in the face of every privation. It was the Power I had first met in a hospital room (during a Near Death Experience) in Texas, and was learning little by little to recognize wherever He chose to shine through - whether the human vehicle was aware of Him or not."
Here's to Love - to the will to love, to the choice of love, to our hearts opening wide and spilling out love during the moments of our lives. May the story of Wild Bill be another way God uses to point me to his Truth.
So...I've been remiss in keeping up my blog. I'm making presents for Christmas - that's an excuse that sounds reasonably noble enough to get myself off the hook. Oh, and freelance work. And dabbling in digital scrapbooking. AND I'm reading my soul-friend Jim Palmer's new book that he sent me last week. I just started it and I love it. It's really good when you have a friend who writes a book and you like it, you know? Anyway, this is an endorsement by one of those Divine Nobodies - Wide Open Spaces - Beyond-Paint-By-Number-Christianity is well worth getting your hands on.
And then came my twin's reply via email: "And males twins are more prone to drink to excess and mumble to themselves, due to having been subjected to female criticism prior to birth..."
Smarty pants. :)
spills a scalloped frame of light
on the night-soaked wall,
scattering shards of darkness.
How soft, the surrounding shadows.
How beckoning, a cocoon.
Calling of freedom.
Calling of life.
The bewitching cries of shadows
are drowned in scalloped light.
A friend of mine approached me awhile ago with a vision he had for site that would let people know about God's immense and amazing Love for all of humankind. This became a "what if..." discussion. What if we could try and communicate the message of God's Perfect Love? What would that look like? Where would we start? How do we convey to people who may never have experienced it, that those who feel God's love deep in their spirits spill that love out into the world.
Recently through our partnership this message of love has turned into a web site endeavor: www.turnloveinsideout.com . Jim is a writer, so this vision and the writing come from him. I am a designer, so the web site and graphics are my domain. There are other people involved as well. Darla is our Flickr group administrator, and the one who created the wonderful photo on our main page. Michael is one of the TLIO group bloggers. I am feeling so blessed to have a part in an initiative. What could be better than spending my time sending out ripples of Love?
In his hotel room the other day, my brother caught the morning news story on TV about Pittsburgh's new bishop, David Zubik, and how he was flying into town from Green Bay. Bill idly wondered how the bishop was traveling there as he waited for his own flight to Pittsburgh. When he boarded the plane and took his seat, he immediately recognized the man next to him and said, "You're Pittsburgh's new bishop, aren't you?" That acknowledgement sparked a conversation that lasted most of their flight. Bill told me the bishop said a couple of times, "I don't know if you're Catholic..." and my brother kind of sidestepped the question. As they talked of spiritual matters Bill said that he'd be praying for the new bishop, that he would be a blessing to all those he's going to serve in his new role. And then finally in answer to a direct question he said no, he's not Catholic, he's a Tibetan Buddhist. The bishop raised his eyebrows. "Really?" My brother went on to explain that it wasn't that he didn't believe in Christ, it's just that the Christian church hadn't seemed very spiritual to him, but only a place where one put in their time on Sundays. Bill spoke about his practice of meditating an hour each night, and Bishop Zubik was surprised that he devoted that much time each day to his spiritual practice.
My brother told me later that he felt so honored to have been seated next to a man who has devoted his whole life to his faith. At the end of their time together the bishop said, "I think God had a purpose for seating us together today." My brother thinks so too. The Buddhist will be praying for the bishop, and vice versa I think.
I'll be remembering the reverence my brother had for his conversation with a man, and how it didn't matter at all to him that they followed different faiths. His respect was for another human being who has devoted his life to following God and serving others. God bless them both, and may I see the lesson in the mutual respect these two men on different spiritual journeys gave each other.
This isn't something I designed for our prayer garden or Creative Collaborative. But after designing some of the materials for our prayer garden/sanctuary for this series, I am feeling drawn to continue on in this vein. The words were taken from a prayer I wrote two years ago:
In the crazy, busy, stressful
Torrents of churning life,
In the storming downpours,
May you be a gentle rain,
A calming brook,
A deep and quiet river within us.
May your voice be a summer’s breeze,
A gentle lapping of waves
on the shores of our soul.
May you fill our hearts with peace
Like the whisper of wind
Caressing the meadow grass,
Like the cricket’s song welcoming twilight.
I went to a lake last night to watch the sun set. The weather was perfect, the sky was pure blue, and the leaves...oh, the leaves were every shade of green imaginable. The lake's right near me, but I'd never been there before. I don't get out enough, I don't see a still lake with gentle ripples from hungry fish as the sun goes down. As the sun dipped lower and lower in the sky, the water turned shades of pink, blue, aqua, and silver. The quiet wooded trail made my soul sing. I think my theology keeps getting stripped down to having my spirit filled with beauty and love and cherishing each moment I can create an awareness of how grateful I am to God for this life.
For the prayer garden we'll be using for this upcoming series. A place to be in silence would be a wonderful sanctuary for me. Tonight it was my small backyard, with a beautiful breeze blowing through the trees. I'm grateful for this perfect evening weather, when I can sit outside and feel God's presence in all of his world around me.
Two beautiful young women, two separate spirit filled encounters. How blessed am I.
I just started reading Praying in Color. You know what surprised me? I love it. I love how it's written, and the design of the book. Mostly, though, I am finding I love praying in color. It focuses me, and combines joy with prayer.
"When I draw as a way to enter prayer, I get to delight in my prayer and to feel God's delight that I am making an effort to pray. Prayer can be the heavy labor of my heart and mind where I am the foreman of a job site. Or prayer can be my joy and freedom, the place where I get to play in the presence of my Creator; where I get a taste of the 'glorious liberty of being a child of God.'" ~Sybil MacBeth
Jim was one of my daughter Kelly's best friends in high school, but they'd lost touch the last few years. When Kelly wrote him a few nights ago, she didn't expect to hear that Jim was sitting in a hospital room getting IV drips of chemo and playing Guitar Hero while he waits for a stem cell transplant in a few days. Before that, he was finishing up law school. Leukemia was an unexpected interruption.
Jim's friends have decided that it's Chuck Norris who is defeating the evil Louis Kemia. Through Jim's blog posts on the web site his friend set up, you'll see an amazing spirit - both Jim's and all his friends.
My daughter was understandably sad and upset when she found out all Jim is going through. As a mother and a graphic artist, I did what I often do when my children are sad - I design something. So I decided to make these blog buttons so people could add them to their blogs, because I don't think you can ever get too many positive comments or prayers during a time like this. In fact, I'm sure of it.
the ebb and flow has
meanwhile I stand
on the shoreline
wearing dry sand
like a hairshirt.
but waters flow,
and there should be
on the shore
The people at the table near me were an odd couple - he a young, lean white guy and she a heavier set African American woman who seemed not quite with it mentally. I wondered if he was a caseworker of some sort. I wondered off and on while I read my book and ate lunch at the Antique Kitchen.
They talked about money a lot, though, in the context of, "How much is the cheeseburger special?" and "Look, it's only $4.50 for chicken strips". He encouraged her to spend some money on lunch, but she only wanted the cinnamon roll. Then she said she'd buy his meal but he said she didn't have to, and that he just didn't want to break his twenty. She said no, really, I just got a check and I'll get another check in a month. I didn't really know what the deal was. God seemed to nudge me to buy their meal, but then I thought maybe they really had plenty of money and this was just some kind of learning experience. But then I didn't think that was God's point. God was just giving me a chance to give, and to experience his love through serving someone.
When I was at the cash register and told Rhonda the waitress very quietly that I wanted to pay the other table's bill, she said, "I'm sorry that I couldn't come to the Family Film night at your church. My daughter got sick." I told her that was fine, I understood, and we'd have another one she could come to. And then I realized - Rhonda thought of Threads because she saw Christ flowing through me. Who knows - maybe God just wanted Rhonda to see a glimpse of him. Actually all I really know is that I drove away feeling filled with his Love, and knowing what a gift God had given me in such a simple thing like buying pancakes.
Just let me have some more of that moolah,
let me dogpaddle through the cash.
Bury me deep in hills of dough,
while heavenly coinage rains down.
I’ll frolic in the greenbacks,
gleeful, joyful, tossing high the dinero.
Oh yes, the lovely loot,
thrown pedestal high,
how fine the long green looks.
So fine with the Lamborghini and Jaguar,
So fine with the six-foot widescreen plasma TV,
So fine with the platinum and diamond right-hand ring.
Oh yes, the lovely loot, sitting on the sparkling
altar, on draped 800 thread-count sheets.
I want it, I deserve it, I should gift myself.
I need to spoil myself a little. Okay, a lot.
I’m supposed to prosper,
and so God will bless me
with lots of dough, and lots of Pretty Things.
Riches matter, this I know, because
The Media tells me so.
God says just ask and you’ll receive.
I need only to believe.
Luxury beckons, golden calves shine brightly.
And nowadays everyone is treating themselves.
Holy god of believe and receive,
Bless me, bless me, with the Almighty Dollar.
My old hometown is still a one stoplight town, even though the stores change facades. Someone had the excellent idea of adding old-fashioned lampposts along the sidewalks, and each one held an American flag - the town is ready ahead of time for its Memorial Day parade and celebration. I saw that Nelson Music is still open. I went to high school with Curt Nelson, who became a local musician and roofer/construction work/adult foster care provider. Well into his 4th decade of life Curt finally realized his dream and opened up a music store with a partner. He supplements his small town sales with guitar lessons during the week.
I thought about Tom and Sharon, who live in a modest house right in town, behind our old football coach's house, where everyone has a front porch with a swing, and sidewalks made for strollers and roller skates. Tom and Sharon really got to know each other the night of our high school graduation, married 10 months later and had their first child about nine months after that. Their two girls live close by and bring the grandchildren over often. Tom will probably retire soon after being a custodian at our old high school for the last 30 years or so. I must say, if I was to trade lives with anyone, I think I'd ask for one like they've had. A solid but modest home, a front porch swing, family and friends in walking distance, waving to everyone you see because you know everyone. I just don't think life gets any better than that.
It was a contemplative drive. One full of nostalgia, joy, love, contentment and was achingly beautiful. I saw God in the leaves, heard him in the lawnmowers, felt him in the coolness of a perfect spring day's breeze.
I have realized lately how easily I am seduced into thinking and speaking negatively. Bitchiness is seductive, there's a meth-like rush of energy and power in anger, snideness, gossiping, cruelty. My mother, rest her soul, fell into that trap, and most of her conversation was fraught with tearing down something or someone. Sometimes it was easier to join her and feel a common bond of anger, a closeness in shared negativity. Those seeds take root so easily. I want to tear them out.
When I focus on living a life of gratitude then my heart opens. And when my heart is open, then God enters in. I had a craving last night and this morning to read the Bible. (Please God, let me crave that more.) In Ephesians 5:18 I was halted by these words: '...making music to the Lord in your hearts". I must fill myself with the melody of life, the harmony of love. As to put an exclamation mark on this striving for a loving heart, I was led to Michael's blog today and read this.
Heartsong. I'm going to use that word as a prompt whenever my thoughts turn away from ones of Love, from ones that bring life.
Jim wrote a response, and I used it in email I sent out to a large group of people I care about:
"My friend Jim donated copies of his books for the silent auction fundraiser I was involved in as designer. The woman we were helping was on an experimental drug for ovarian cancer. She died Sunday, and I wrote to Jim to tell him, and to tell him what she had said at the fundraiser just a few weeks ago.
This is what Jim wrote back to me:
"it's interesting that some of her final words, which you passed along to me in your email are now a seed within me birthing new life; these words - "I never knew so many people loved me." it makes me see that i myself am in a great circle of love that i am only partly aware of. it also motivates me to let others know they are part of my circle of those i love. maybe our lives are like the stone in the pond and our love has this ever widening ripple influence.
anyway, just to let you know, you're in my circle :)
--Jim Palmer Author of Divine Nobodies www.divinenobodies.com"
And so I just had to let you know that you're in my circle. :)
A remarkable thing happened. Email started flooding my inbox. Some from people I hadn't heard from in a long time - one man wrote who I hadn't talked to in two years. Another dear friend called me from Florida. All the messages were full of appreciation and love. Sometimes the days get busy...and then the weeks...and then the years...and we don't connect with all those who have created ripples of love in our life.
If you'd like to edit my email and pass this ripple along, please do. Throw your own stone in the pond and keep this love traveling in ever widening circles.
In memory of Rebecca Davis Russcher, 1959 - 2007
Just moments into the movie a song started playing and I caught my breath. It was "Big Rock Candy Mountain", an old American folk song, and the one song that I can remember my father singing to us when we were little. I was always delighted by the nonsensical lyrics. "...where the bulldogs all have rubber teeth and the hens lay hard-boiled eggs..."
Like music can, hearing that song immediately transported me back in time. I could hear my dad's low baritone voice, see the smile on his face, smell the Camel straights and wool scent of him. Many memories of him are gone now. Once I memorized the fact that he had a tiny mole on the little toe of his left foot. I didn't want to forget his foot, just as I didn't want to forget any detail about him. But when you lose someone young and the years go by, those memories eventually fade. I only knew my dad for 17 years and I'm now in my 50s. Too much of him fades sometimes. Sometimes he seems almost a stranger.
But then comes a blessed reminder, a holy favor. I think my heavenly dad provided that small gift from my earthly dad so I could be flooded again with memories, be filled with the immense love I had for the man who left my life too soon. Perfectly timed, my holy favor, to come last night on the eve of the 35th anniversary of my dad's death.
Love endures forever.
But there was this one man who seemed different than others. Michael ran across him downtown a short while ago when Michael himself was homeless and living in his truck. The man was hungry and Michael, with only $20 to his name, gave the guy five of that. There was just something honest and real about him. And when the man found out that Michael too was without a home he invited him to come with him to McDonald's and eat together. It reminded me of the woman I picked up on the street recently, who was trying to carry grocery bags, including one that had ripped most of the way down. When I dropped her off she said, "Now you know where I live so you'll have to stop in for coffee". The smallest drop of kindness in the world creates instant kinship.
With Michael and the other man there was the added bond of mutual homelessness. They kept talking, sharing their stories, and the other guy said that he was trying to scrape up $15 to settle a debt that must be paid before his parole officer could get him a job. He was caught in a crazy Catch-22, needing money to be eligible for work, and needing work to provide the money for his debt. Really, I'm telling the truth, the guy said. I'll call my parole officer and he'll tell you. Michael, who even when flush doesn't hand out more than change or a buck to those who ask for money on the street, decided to give the man his last $20. He brushed off the man's request for contact information to pay him back, and told him he just needed to get things square, get a job and than help somebody else out. Pay it forward.
I sat raptly while Michael told me his story, forgetful of the wine glass in my hand. "I knew the guy was telling the truth," Michael said. "I knew it was what I was supposed to do. I could feel this energy, this healing energy, all around us."
"That energy," I replied. "That's what I call God." And in that moment a bridge buckled and drew us both to the center, into a middle of understanding each other.