I have a new internet friend! I discovered her blog today… and fell in love with her and Italy in one reading! You can find her and travel with her through the magical land of “La Dolce Far Niente” at http://afriendoftheking.blogspot.com Her name is Leslie Suzanne. Her subtitle is Unlocking barriers and opening doors… She and her daughter are living for a few months on a horse farm in Italy – immersed in the language and the culture. As bloggers you will appreciate the way she began her entry last Sunday:
Archive for April, 2013
So much is being written and spoken about the Boston bombings and the brothers – some say they are sick and disturbed; others say kind and compassionate. Some say cruel, out-of-their-minds, while others attest to their normalcy, their friendliness. Their uncle called them “losers” but went on to define them as simply “lost” young men – who never really learned to “fit in” after they immigrated to the USA. He saw something objectionable years ago… and distanced himself and his family from them. Whatever adjectives we use to describe them, we know this for sure: they committed those heinous crimes. So much hate is emitted from them – toward them – so much evil.
Our Writers’ Group met last Friday. We meet every first and third Friday each month. We begin our time together with a “Free Write” – fifteen minutes of writing – on a random topic, a subject pulled out of a hat. Then we share with one another what we have written.
Last Friday the random topic was a strange one: “What’s in Gray?” I thought about it a long time. Then, this is what I wrote:
“What’s in Gray?”
Gray is black and white –
But gray is neither.
Gray is right or wrong.
Can it be either?
Gray is “Not Been Tested,”
– like stretchin’ out the law.
Gray is on the tip
Of a red tail hawk’s claw.
Gray is often in
The color of the hair
On an older person’s head –
Wise enough to leave it there.
Gray is in the tolerance
Of seeing the multiple views
On NBC, FOX, and CNN,
When watching ugly news.
Some only see the black;
Others screen in simply white.
But life is seldom pure,
So in the gray may be some light.
Lighten up the darkness
With the white of joy and peace.
Entertain some gray, friends.
In it, you’ll find release.
– Jan Beekman
– April 19, 2013
I’ve given a lot of thought to the “captivity of extremes.” That’s where the word “release” comes from. For me, all terrorists are victims of EXTREME. They are captured by extreme thinking. They have allowed themselves to be brainwashed or they have become mentally ill. They cannot let the white of joy or peace into their lives. Life is bleak and black for them. Bombings, killings, suicides, wars of all nature are the result of people whose thinking has become so skewed to the extreme that they have failed to see humanity, to feel love in its pure form, to allow any movement away from the corner they’ve painted for themselves. Gray is not a part of their mental capacity and logic is lost. There is no point in trying to REASON why they act as they do. Reason is gone – buried in the extreme – lost is the black bleakness of their terror. For these Captives of Extreme, death and destruction is the only option. They have become incapable of letting the light – the enlightenment – find a way into their miserable world. Can this be changed? Is there hope for the hopeless? Only God knows.
What a bleak week this has been!
I wrote this and it sat in my “draft folder.” I don’t know why. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to be posted in the midst of the turmoil, but as a reminder now – to keep on praying. It’s not over for those caught in the middle of it! It’s only begun for some.
A Bleak Week unfolded.
Depressing and dreary to be sure.
Horrifying, frighteningly hair-raising.
Heart-breaking and sobering,
Bombings in Boston,
Explosions in Texas,
Water overflowing banks – Flooding,
Earthquake in China,
More than a million people affected.
A bleak week indeed
– and the misery continues.
Tragedy upon tragedy.
My heart weeps.
God is crying with us all.
He gave us free will; He didn’t want puppets.
But, oh my, how it must break God’s heart
To see the devastation.
Innocent bystanders mowed down.
Innocent bystanders stepped up.
The air was electric.
The energy, enthusiasm, and love
Were palpable as desperate victims
Gratefully accepted whatever help
Good Samaritans could offer.
Belts and shirts torn off – used as tourniquets,
Bravery only God knows.
Blue Sky turned gray
With ash too thick for tears
To wash it away.
Tears mingle with Texas fertilizer.
Tears increase rains in Illinois and Iowa.
Gray water, gray skies, gray days.
A Bleak Week.
Continue to pray.
There is so much hurting out there!
It is finished, the finale, the end –
The point of it all is through.
When all is said and done,
We’ll see clearly – when we begin anew.
The end will arrive at last,
But life is not finished there.
God’s purpose is not a finality here.
He sent His Son for life everywhere.
He brought life to an empty world.
He brought love to a world of hate.
He promised us love for eternity.
The point of this world is in debate.
Some think this world is all there is.
We are born, we live, and we die.
When all is said and done,
We are buried and there we lie.
We live on this earth – a botched creation.
God didn’t intend all this hate and crime.
Injustice, cruelty and pain aren’t God’s plan.
He sent Jesus to show us a loving time.
Easter is a prelude to God’s Kingdom promise.
We celebrate the Victory of God’s Lamb.
When my life is finished – at the finale, the end,
May the Lamb carry me on the promise of who I am.
I am not a top-of-the-class Christian.
I’m a sinner forgiven by grace.
There is no hope for this botched life,
Except by God’s Plan – I’ll see God face-to-face.
When all is said and done,
We’ll see clearly when we begin anew.
Plan for that Grand Finale, my friends.
When all’s said and done, I’ll see you!
My devotional time this morning focused on Psalm 16:8 “I will keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him on my right hand, I will not be shaken.” It was an appropriate scripture for the day after I kept my eyes closed for what was actually only a little more than a half an hour, but in some ways seemed like triple that time. I was squished inside an MRI machine. Have you ever had to go inside one of those tubes and bear the clings and clangs and knocks and noises of whistles and whines? No fun! Some MRI machines come with a musical experience… headphones and your favorite CD or radio station. This one didn’t, so I provided my own! With my eyes closed (who needs to see the inside of a claustrophobic tube?), I kept my eyes on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I was not shaken. I sang my favorite hymns, cowboy songs, old R & B favorites. I hummed and smiled, and the tiny space I occupied didn’t seem confining at all.
Where do you focus your attention when you are in a difficult situation? When you’re in a tight spot, do you pay attention to the walls that are closing in on you, or can you tune in to your inner music and allow what is important in your life to be your focus? Widen the walls of worry and woe. Call on the Lord and be a beautiful listener. Be attentive to God at your right hand, and (as the Psalmist reminds us) you will not be shaken.
Practice that same kind of focused, attentive listening when you are in the company of friends and loved ones, too. Instead of listening to your inner music, and tuning them out, take your clue from the One at your right hand, and tune in fully to the conversation with your companion. That’s what Jesus did. He looked directly into the eyes, into the soul of His companions. He heard with His heart. God does that when we pray to Him. As if you were in an MRI tube, with no visual images to distract you, focus on what is before you. Let your mind center on the moment. Be attentive! Be a beautiful listener.
Beautiful listening is
Empathetic listening. It’s an
Acquired skill – It
Takes practice; It
Takes caring; it
Especially takes knowing that
Nothing is more important
Than the one speaking
In this moment. Listen
Vividly. Be fully present.
Enjoy the moment.
As Ashley Kappel prayed in this morning’s Daily Guidepost 2013, let us pray also, “Lord, remind me today who is important in my life and allow me to focus wholly on them, if only for a moment.”
Love One Another. Amen?
Happy Sunday, my friends. If you have visited my blog before, you may remember that I take sermon notes on Sunday and try to summarize in poetic format the message as I hear it – through my filters. Our pastor is Rev. Jean Johnson. Today’s message was inspired by Revelation 1:4-8. Here is what I heard and recorded with my poetic license this morning. I hope it speaks to you – as it did to me.
Here and There
Wherever we are is here;
Wherever we’ve been is there.
We can’t be both places;
We can’t be everywhere.
It would be convenient
To be in two places at one time,
But it’s not humanly possible.
To testify that you were, would be a crime.
Mentally, though, it seems as if
We can be two places simultaneously.
We can be trapped in prison,
But free as a bird emotionally.
We can be suffering, trapped in pain;
Our place can be miserable indeed –
But dejection doesn’t have to be
The whole story – even in dire need.
Our mind can take us a long way off –
Out of despair into a Spirit of Hope.
Peace doesn’t have to be a state of denial.
Gratitude and faith lift us, so we can cope.
No matter what our circumstances,
No matter where we are –
From grief and desolation we can be
Lifted in The Spirit – transported far.
Wherever we are is here;
Wherever we’ve been is there.
We can be in both places.
In God’s hands, we can be lifted anywhere.
“I don’t understand why people can’t admit their faults; if I had any, I sure would!” I love that quote. It’s all about the log in my eye while I’m pointing out the sliver in someone else’s eye. That log gets in the way of my clear vision. It prevents me from realizing my own limitations.
Limitations? Do I have limitations? One of my favorite scriptures is, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” ALL things? Jump tall buildings in a single bound? End war forever? Cure cancer? Well, those are limitations that are easily recognized and admitted. What realistically do I see and acknowledge? What are the slivers in my eye? Do others see the speck that I choose to ignore?
The ophthalmologist calls those specks “floaters.” They are shadows caused by the floating cell particles at the back of my retina. Too remote to be seen without the use of high-powered instruments – or ever-discerning, fault-finding friends. Those friends are treasures! They care. They take the time to really observe. Most people don’t, you know. We’d all worry less about our faults and who sees them if we realized how few people care enough to really LOOK at us that closely! YOU are the one who holds the mirror, stands in front of it, and stares.
Limitations? Sometimes the most obvious ones are the ones we actually DO see – – – and we may be the only one who does. After all, who cares more about you than you do? Do all faults have to be limitations?
Go ahead – – – scale that tall building! Find a cure for cancer! Someone will someday, you know. Might as well be you!
Beauty in Blunders
What comes to mind when you think of the word “blunder”?
How about “Courage in Creativity”?
Yesterday our local chapter of GFWC (General Federation of Women’s Clubs) held its monthly meeting. I have the privilege of serving in the capacity of Madison Valley Woman’s Club (MVWC) Chaplain. As such, I am asked to present a message to the ladies at the start of each meeting. I try to tie it into the theme of the month’s program if I can, and make it inspirational. If one person is personally touched enough to comment about it later, I think there is a chance I have reached my goal. If I notice someone is brought to tears as the message hits home, I know! Yesterday, the MVWC theme was “The Art of Quilting.” The speaker, who only began quilting a decade ago, shared a variety of phenomenal creations. There wasn’t a noticeable blunder among them!
My message to the ladies was for them to take Courage in their Creativity. Do not be intimidated by what appears to be perfection in others. I have a beautiful cross stitch hanging in my entryway. I brought it to the meeting yesterday for my friends to admire. Then, after I read the message on it and gave them time to admire the handiwork, I shared its blunder.
Can you find the blunder? I shared the following quote from Leaves of Gold, An Anthology of Prayers, Memorable Phrases, Inspirational Prose and Poetry, edited by Clyde Francis Lytle:
There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it ill becomes any of us
To find fault with the rest of us.
We are often quick to point out the faults of others, but some of us put a magnifying glass on our own inadequacies and easily see our own mistakes where others might not notice them at all. It is not necessarily true, as Dryden wrote, “Everyone is eagle-eyed to see another’s faults and deformities.” Often we are eagle-eyed to see our own! I didn’t see Lucy’s blunder in her stitchery. Did you find it? She knew that the pattern called for a dozen bees. Count them. She has thirteen. Which one is “deformed”? Which one doesn’t belong? It wasn’t in the pattern. Its body is too square. Its wings are too short. It was stitched to cover up a mistake. I love that bee! It makes my stitchery unique – a one-of-a-kind – just like its creator! Just like each of us!
We may think we are too square or too short or too tall or too fat or too skinny… too something. We DO see the log in our own eye while we overlook the splinter in our neighbor’s. Don’t we?
Now that you know that bee is a blunder, can you see the beauty in it? Can you sense the courage in the creator who covered her “error” with her own original? Now that you know it’s there, can you look beyond the blunder? Or looking at it, can you see why my emphasis is on “Beauty in Blunders”?
Yes, we have our faults. We create mistakes. But, without the freedom to make them, we’d be afraid to get out of bed in the morning! In Leaves of Gold, LaRochefoucauld is quoted as saying, “We confess our little faults only to persuade others that we have no great ones.” Well, no one is fooled! Especially not us! We can’t trick ourselves into believing that our work is perfect. This side of heaven, it never will be! But, take Courage in your Creations! Bee bold and adventuresome! Embrace your faults while you strive to BEE all that God created you to BEE…
Find the Beauty in your Blunders.
God bless you!