Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Daniel and the Stupid Bird

Finally. It was The Day I promised myself time to laze in the pool and sit in the gazebo with a totally engaging no-think book and icy drink. I had been so energized to clean our house and yard after our daughter, son-in-law, and dogs moved into their own home (they were with us five months) that instead of waiting for my husband to come home, I hauled things way too heavy for me—like pressure washers and a 50-pound, round glass tabletop that I could barely get my arms around enough to lift back on the base. My determined stubbornness had gotten the job done inside and out, including painting three decks, but now my body, splattered with black and blue marks was in need of a serious recharge.

I set my book and drink on the stand, puffed up the lounge chair cushions, and reached up to turn the fan on. Suddenly there was a flapping and thrashing in the peak of the gazebo. A bird was batting against the sides of the rafters. Thinking the draft from the fan was too much for it, I turned the fan off. The stunned bird settled on a side rafter. I settled in my chair. Although it was fairly big, I realized the bird was a young robin. Its red belly feathers were just coming in, much like a teenage boy’s chin fuzz.

I waited, hoping it would leave because I really wanted to turn the fan on, but it just stood there, mouth open, bleating a tiny little chirp. I picked up my book and tried to carry on with my pleasantries but was distracted by the faint “chirp, chirp.”

I got up and waved at it, but the youngling didn’t flinch. Then I heard her. The mother was frantically hopping on branches outside the gazebo. She had a mouth full of worms and kept calling Junior to come, but Junior stayed put, beak wide open, mama, come stick those down my throat, I don’t dare move. Mama became more insistent, chirped loudly (even with the worms) but still didn’t enter the gazebo. Junior was just as adamant about not budging. He continued his pathetic little noise and now I, distracted, put my no-longer-so-totally engaging book aside and entered into this rescue-the-robin drama.

After several attempts with the pool net, I pushed Junior off the eaves where he landed in the crepe myrtle. Eventually he heeded his mama and fluttered away.

The whole affair lasted about forty minutes. By then, a storm had rolled in. Frustrated to have used up so much time, I began thinking things like, What a stupid bird. (Can there actually be stupid birds?) The gazebo was wide open and it wasn’t even stuck. Its mother was two feet away on the other side, with a beak full of worms, and all it could do was sit and cry a pathetic little ‘eh.’

But before I got too far down the path of berating a bird, the lesson learner in me kicked in. I thought about a notation in my journal that I had been reflecting on. It had to do with how Daniel had enough confidence in God and the gift God had given him (interpreting dreams and visions) to act before he had the actual answer. (First he requested the king give him time to interpret the dream, then he went to his friends for prayer support, then God revealed the mystery-Dan.2: 14-19).

Daniel didn’t wait for God to come and stick the answer in his mouth before he dared make a move.

I began to suspect I had more in common with the stupid bird than I liked: How many times do I want assurance of a good outcome before I dare do something? How many times do I let insecurity sabotage my writing or my relationships? How many times do I beg God for the answer before I trust that he has given me gifts and wisdom to act?

So, maybe I was a bit harsh on Junior’s plight. I’ll have to remember him the next time I’m in a situation calling for a faith move and consider which will it be—that of Daniel or the stupid bird?

(Okay, okay, so my meditations are on the level of “beach-reads” these days. It takes a while to get going after a long diversion, but thanks for stopping by.)

Blessings abundant these very hot days of July,


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

When you can't own the house on the hill, meet the person who does

Certainly I had no idea words C.S. Lewis used to describe his childhood in the big house his father built would end up being a quirky connection for me from the Lord.

I put Lewis’s sentence on the overhead screen: I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences . . . and told the participants in my memoir class to use it as a model to describe a place from their lives.

The room was quiet as a dozen or so heads bent over paper and iPads. As students took turns reading their pieces, we were transported to ocean beaches, arid deserts, exotic cities, and sad farewell places. One woman captured our attention with her nostalgic description of sunsets over long mountain views and generations of family spilling over sweeping lawns. It was so lovely, I asked her where she lived.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

When your husband has too much time and you have none

You know it’s time to come out from that pile of books you’ve been behind for the past three weeks when your husband, in all seriousness, wonders about shooting them. Not because he’s annoyed, mind you, but curious. He’s been left to himself too much, I think.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

When they die without us

Leave. They all do that. Some indiscriminately—young, old and in between. Some at the most inconvenient times, like when you’ve just boarded the cruise ship for your long-deserved vacation or have just begun to teach the seven-week family relationships series you committed to. It’s then you get the news the one you’d previously postponed these things for has died.

Some slip off accommodatingly so—politely leaving while you keep watch. Maybe they couldn’t hold out any longer and resigned themselves to “I hate to go off like this while you’re feeling so glum and all, but I really can’t hold on any longer.” Or maybe they just give up and say,” OK, you insist on being here—know I love you—and now, good-bye.”

I’ve heard they don’t like to go if you’re hanging on, which makes me sad about my mom’s passing because several of us siblings slept in her room around the clock. I didn’t expect her to live but I wanted to be with her when she left. One of my favorite authors, Abigail Thomas, in her memoir, Three Dog Life, expressed it this way: “We were afraid to leave him. It was as if we were trying to hatch an egg. Keeping him warm with our presence.”

 Finally, after weeks of watching, I stood at the foot of mom's bed and said to everyone, I can’t take it anymore. I’m going home.” My sister-in-law-nurse said, “Wait a minute, it won’t be long.” So I waited and rubbed those so-many-times-stubbed and-broken toes sticking out from the sheets and she left. Just like that. No fanfare. No angels’ wings batting. No clouds of glory.

But I knew, she knew.

So just now, my friend called to say her husband had died the minute she left to go for lunch. After weeks with him, changing bedpans and propping him up to eat, and holding her breath with his every prolonged nap, and experimenting with every alternative application for colloidal silver she could find because everyone else had given up, he up and left when she was a mile down the road.

She wondered about this. Felt bad. Thing is. I know he loved her. He was secure in her love for him. Recognized her fierce dedication to helping him live.

So why did he go off without her?

Was love too strong a line that he couldn’t break free?

I don’t know. Won’t even pretend to know.
But this I think: We want this life to be our all. We want this to be our reality.

But it isn’t. My mom knew it. My friend knew it. I know it. I want to impress my children with it.

Jesus rose from the dead. I expect to too.

My faith embraces a life beyond. But I need to make it real. Make it mine.

If I died tomorrow, I would say, in spite of the tough childhood family scene, in spite of the self-centered, culture-believing lies I’ve lived… I have been redeemed, and I have had a great

No regrets, unless that maybe someone I mistreated wouldn’t know how much I wish their forgiveness.

I write this, and I hope I can grasp it so firmly that it is my reality. When I leave this body, I will be with God forever. Think about this next week.



Monday, March 23, 2015

Finding creativity when your house is full and your mind is blank

Next month I will take part in a presentation on creativity. This is ironic because the most creative thing I’ve done in weeks is switch out one of my usually plain outfits with a combination I thought was more modern—a choice my daughter tactfully suggested I reconsider.

Creativity, according to one author, thrives in messy and unusual environments, unlike logical, analytical thought that prefers order. But I beg to differ.

During the months after my father-in law died and our nest was empty again, I fell into the pleasant routines of walking the dog, writing, and working at leisure. While luxuriating in so much free time, I signed on to teach several workshops, all of which are happening this spring.

But empty bedrooms beg occupants as zealously as nature fills a vacuum. Needing a place to stay while they were selling their house, my daughter, her husband, and their two dogs moved in. And although we are all getting on notably well (except for our dog who’s clearly not happy to share her pack) my ability to hold a thought longer than one sentence long has fled.

It’s an art, I think—that ability to focus in the throes of interruptions. For example, as I sit here trying to grapple with a thought or two, my husband comes in, sits down to put his shoes on, and asks if I think he’d make a good king. I don’t even want to follow up that conversation, so I roll my eyes and get out another sentence before the guest German shepherd starts whining to go out, and my daughter comes down and wants to chat.

My first inclination is to blame my inattentiveness on getting older—a suspicion that was fostered during a recent trip up North. Since we were arriving at midnight, I booked a room in a hotel that was supposed to be about a mile from the airport. While we waited for the cab, most of the other passengers disappeared into the dark, wintery New Hampshire night.

Finally, a tiny yellow car pulled up. The driver hopped out. Although the wind chill must have been hovering in the teens and snow banks lined the road, he wore a baseball cap (on backwards), a bulky Bobby Orr hockey jacket, and shorts. He popped the trunk and directed us to put our luggage on top of the spare tire and jack occupying the dirty, narrow space.

Another man emerged from the shadows, slid into the front seat, and we were off. Our driver chatted about this and that—said he “couldn’t complain about anything because no one would listen anyway.” The man in the front seat said nothing. We drove out of the airport straight into rural blackness. No street lights, hotels, diners, or other establishments typically near airports. Five minutes . . . ten minutes . . .. Not a creature was stirring, not a speck of light.

Now I begin to wonder. I wonder if I’ve called the right hotel. I wonder about the silent man in the front seat and the odd driver wearing shorts on a freezing night. Movies with places like the Bates Motel surface in my mind. “I thought the hotel was a mile from the airport,” I say.

The backward baseball cap in front of me bobs. “Well, I guess you could say that—as the crow flies, (ha ha). But there’s no way to get there directly from here.”

I glanced at Bob and squeezed his hand. Several minutes and miles later we arrived at the hotel. Relieved it was just a quirky cab ride, and I hadn’t misread the hotel information in some senile booking moment, but had, indeed, gotten us a king room at a great price, we took our keys and approached the door, right off the lobby.

The tub-less shower and low hanging closet bars were the first clues.
I had reserved the elderly-friendly, handicap-accessible room.

As far as I’m concerned, the jury’s still out whether creativity thrives in disorder, but this I know: by the grace of God my body doesn’t need wheel-in showers and low-lying appliances, but my mind needs order. Hats off to those who can write and think and create while tending children and fending off distractions. 

I love my company and their canines, but I know my limits. So I've walked the dog, kissed the husband, and fled to library where I hope to create and concentrate in peace and quiet—or, at least, say hello to those of you stopping by.

Blessings abundant,

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Where was their high tower?

Where was the place the righteous run to and are safe, according to Proverbs 18:12? We pray for safety, for help on icy roads, for health and healing and hope that so many of the verses of Scripture seem to promise, as well we should. But what happens when senseless tragedy strikes anyway? Doesn’t God’s word work?

Do martyrs see what Stephen saw—“the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” Does the Holy Spirit fill them so they can say, “Lord, do not hold this against them”?

Friday, February 13, 2015

When silence isn't golden

Jefferson's Bible
Cut and paste. Long before Microsoft, man was fashioning his own version of morals without the miracles, good without God. When Thomas Jefferson didn’t agree with biblical “interpreters,” (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John among them) he simply cut their words out and then painstakingly pasted together the parts he agreed with. VoilĂ ! A Bible he could believe in.

Seems the “cut” part is still a popular method of promoting a philosophy or worldview today. A school district in Florida is under scrutiny for having students recite Islamic prayers and use textbooks that cover Islam in depth but that have “mistakenly” left out the pages on Christianity and Judaism. This district is not alone. All over the country Islam is being introduced in public schools as if it were the latest fashionable thing for the enlightened to learn.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The little things. They're a big deal

After driving for over seven hours, we are stopped in a mile-long jam, a half-hour short of home. I am thankful we’d made a bathroom stop not long before. And I am especially thankful that the sirens squeezing by on the shoulder of these three lanes of trucks and cars are not coming for me. I send up a prayer for whoever is the object of this commotion and settle in for the wait.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

God's Fingerprint| Part 12

 Numbers have always escaped me. I was the one who could learn Latin faster than algebra, who spent college afternoons trying to grasp a math problem when everyone else was at a football game, the one who rounds her checkbook off so she doesn't have to deal with pesky odd numbers. But I recognize Majesty when I see it! This is lovely, and yes, awesome because it reflects an awesome God.

So for today...enjoy, worship and be blessed


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Words I wished I had written, but glad I've read

Marcia Moston

I stare at the new journal, pages blanker than a Vermont meadow after a snowfall, on the table next me. Every January 1st morning, this is my dilemma: what word, what wisdom, what prayer, petition or thanksgiving will be the first I commit to these pages.

Oh, that life would be so tough, you say!

I know, it’s a writer thing, and I am thankful that’s the extent of my dilemmas this morning, but here’s why it means so much to me.

I can easily be an info addict, a glutton for useless information, enamored by the sound of an idea, lured into learning about all kinds of things (did you know Japanese first-graders work at solving puzzles 40% longer than American ones?) rather than doing anything.

So before I start listing any intentions and resolutions for this next 584 million miles about the sun,