shine with a soft tremendous light
Chasing light, the ocean's current mesmerized my soul. Castles made from little hands, hope swirled effortlessly upward, quietly, deliberately floating with the movement of air. Pausing, I breathed in deeply as the sun cast it's illuminating warmth. The soft shimmer against specks of gold.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; these were the cuts etched with precision hands in a diamond found buried within the mud.
Carat - the weight/ color - the brilliance/ clarity - the wisdom/ cut - the experiences; this gemstone is of rare beauty. It is a treasured gift if found by chance.
A conference about atoms and molecules, a pod-cast about parenting, one about the old traditions of the bible, one loosely connecting historical letters, a book about boundaries, a workshop about children and stress, articles in the news; it is a swirl of thought and perspectives. My mind automatically connects "dots", drawing symbolism and big picture ideas to small obscure theories. It is as if I must sift through ocean sand in search for a rare and valuable jewel.
Format: 30-40 tables of four in an auditorium of about 150 people rotating with four questions. It was a follow-up to a video we watched and a panel of discussion by guest speakers. First question, first table. If we are talking about mental illness, the rise of drug use and suicide in teenagers, maybe we "as a generation of parents" are doing something wrong, I said.
Well - that stopped (or slowed) the conversation. Post a picture hinting of our inequities and it might get one "like" or two - maybe. People rarely want to cast the light upon themselves but that is exactly where a faith journey must begin; it is a jeep-trail of discovery for the adventuresome.
If statistics are giving us accurate information, something is amiss in a world that needs hope.
We hobbled through the remaining few minutes and I went to three more tables with 12 more people and kept my tongue under a finer filter. But, what if WE have something to learn from our kids?
This blog is about Faith and change has to begin with me.
I have a tendency to brag about my three kids (all in their twenties).
Getting older: I stop, listen, speak less. Am I willing to let go into the arms of a heavenly father?
I have a tendency to preach about forgiveness but then not reconcile with my own father?
Getting older: I stop, listen, speak less. Am I willing to let go into the arms of a heavenly father?
I have a tendency to put fear above faith?
Getting older: I stop, listen, speak less. Am I willing to let go into the arms of a heavenly father?
Leaving a football game with my mother and sister, we followed the large crowd exiting the arena when we came across a boombox blaring a pre-taped message that Jesus is the way. It was 3-4 young people sitting on the curb looking sad and empty and I couldn't help but think they were being paid to amplify the bulletin. I continued being herded with the rest of the crowd toward the parking lot, not dismissing the image. Well - it just felt so unholy.
When I think of the most holy, sacred moments in my life - the ones that transform my faith into action, the ones that turn religion upside down with a spin of something greater and deeper and more unexplainable, they have been moments unrelated to a sermon. They brought what the breaking of bread looks like in a community of believers. With the thought of God's grace through the sacrifice Jesus made on a cross, tears were the instrument cutting a diamond on the inside out where the dust blew freely through the delicacies of my spirit.
I entered the large exterior glass doors. I paused. Next, I entered a second set of windowed glass. Pushing with force, the air contracted into puffs of movement. I stepped forward taking in the sight of community in an empty sanctuary. The fragrance of church was intoxicating. There were no lights and no people, no music, no papers; I found my seat alone albeit the holy spirit that embraced me. The inside of my soul overflowed with gratitude for a faith etched by loving hands. Church not only represents tiny, little experiences but everything.
God has created you as carefully as He has designed me. I had the opportunity to hear the conversation between a father and his sons this week. The image is a quick snapshot in a corridor of an abbey where the quiet gregorian chants of men in worship whisper through halls of faith. I realized the creator of the universe created you to "speak life" in a way that nobody else on the planet could.
This interchange of thought seemed a contrast to a blasting, blaring sound in the crowded noise. It is a hushed whisper of intimacy forever transforming ... one person at a time.
a Stained Glass
Listening to a pastor at a conference, he was simply a teacher at a workshop and I realized I was surrounded by men and women who had no faith. It was a lonely wind that drifted in that morning. Yes, the church is it's people but there is also something so regal and humbling before the cross on weakened knees in a holy sanctuary. Scripture, biblical truths, ancestry, a lifetime of quiet exchange between a holy God and a humble heart and for a brief moment, the exchange of an inhaled puff of oxygen with the exhaled one of carbon dioxide was the same windowed glass I entered but this time - into my soul.
In Galatians, Paul was speaking to the people of the church who had begun to wander away from their freedom and again toward legalism. He urged his brothers and sisters to grow-up in their faith. The more intimate their relationship with Jesus Christ, the more their love spilled out to those around them. The natural brilliance of color, clarity, cut and carat as a proactive pursuit of faith is the artisan cutting a diamond on the inside of your soul; the remaining dust is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It never was about the chasing of traits but rather the earnest yearning toward a living God.
Which brings us back to a castle and sand, a girl and a boy, hope and love and with a child-like faith, the community of believers share the treasure they have found ... because it spills out from their innocent love. May you, too, encounter a holy God.
Come, all who are tired ... into His arms of strength.
The savior's arms are open wide.
"Tell the World of the Treasure You've Found"
As they looked toward the heavens, quiet rain fell like confetti - seeping into the stillness of souls.
Songs may be purchased on I-Tunes, photos were from Fotolia, scripture found in Life Application bible, stories are my own.
The team of four auditors walked to the front door - cups of coffee and computers in hand. It is not a surprise, the books for a busy office are evaluated annually. In other words, my work is scrutinized. They are making sure i have dotted my i's and crossed my t's in a fast-paced year where excellence is everything.
It is the sound check before a concert.
I'm pretty good at details but still, my heart compressed as my outstretched hand firmly shook the hands of my colleagues. My boss likely fielding questions, my competency, in part, influences him. He has his work to do but also his reputation is based on my hard work too.
It is a team effort.
Introductions: this was among the opening songs for an annual benefit to raise money for memory loss. It is the singer/songwriters that make other people look good. They have collectively written hundreds of songs you know and love on the radio, sung by other artists who have made the songs that stick in your head and bring you back to places tucked into memory. Reaching deep into their guts, they are dreamers and risk-takers but again, it is collaborate effort between artists.
A train, a sunset, an audit and a concert.
dandelions blown in the wind under autumn colors, seeds scatter hope in the breeze
An odd coincidence, I was at an evening bible study where the hosts introduced us to a new video series we watched. Twenty minutes in, a flush of color rose up my neck and into my cheeks; my slight heart murmur beat a step faster to the internal noise of my soul. Using video clips is not unusual in youth ministries but when the pastor preached, his sermon seemed to parallel my words, themes and videos.
Weeks before, I had considered "scaffolding" my website but i have grown spiritually, emotionally and as a writer because of this website. Like faith, each step of the way, I trust and walk forward but I cannot do it alone. I need this platform as much as I need colleagues. The audit is simply the gauge of how we are doing. Wanting to keep with the culture, I considered changing the format but when the young college aged help desk associates pointed out unique page visits, google positions, newsletters, SSL's, logo's, I was in over my head. Nothing is mine to hold on to, tightly. It is a great example of our relationship with Christ. We stumble, fall, grow, praise, step out slowly, jump in enthusiastically but the real work is a willingness to try. With a humble heart, trust begins with a step.
Words, words, words ... as I have written more, I have less to say. It really comes down to the hard work of the cross. God has reached deep into my soul turning what I thought was love, redemption, forgiveness, grace and everything I thought I knew about hard work and religion upside down.
my heart beat faster to the internal noise of my soul - as I looked for a train to take me home.
I knew of dandelions at a very young age. My little hands picked brightly colored yellow flowers from Nana and Papa's yard to hold it delicately under the mouth of their very old and large turtle. Searching for them, I considered the bloom a secret treasure. I still do when I think back to those early days of wonder.
As a junior high school girl, I loved blowing whimsical, translucent white seeds into the wind, wishing the deep secrets of my heart into the sunset of youth. I still do when I think back to those early days of hope.
Bright yellow flowers - clear white petals. They are one in the same. It is the life-cycle of a dandelion. A young and vibrant burst of color, growing quiet and closed until it re-opens again with dry seeds that will be scattered in the wind. A perfect word picture for the maturation of faith. I hang on to this image as I trust moving forward.
It is a four-wheel motion deep into trails that traverse the corners of the canyons of our souls. It is a journey of faith we all are on. I pause. I wait. I trust. I hope. I look up.
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he needed. Every day, they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
Financial audits are easier than spiritual ones. They are an accounting of the details of business but what about the audit of faith?
We all have them - bumps along the road. The internal and external were at a crossroads. As I thought of audits, I humbly pondered the areas that needed some work.
Perhaps I was running a little low in these areas.
It is easy to be absorbed in our own worlds. I am guilty of it too but when I was walking in San Francisco last week, I couldn't help but step into the shoes of someone very different from myself. An attractive woman dancing in the streets. There was a boombox playing a popular song. I admired her boldness and confidence. As I walked by, I realized it was a man. I still admired his enthusiasm. Some time later, I passed again crossing the street where out of the corner of my eye, a woman who looked to be a tourist in her 40's did a humiliating mocking motion toward the man. It was a quick jeer and laughing with a group of friends; it was a split-second bullying, outside the playground and I paused. My immediate response was to call her out and the other was to hug the man in the street but I did neither.
Sigh, I did neither. So ... I began to write and pray.
Change must begin with us. Humbly, the conversation of mental illness, suicide, cancer, domestic abuse, inability to find a job, loneliness, frustration, skinned knees and broken places tug at my heart; it is in a context of us not them, that we grow into a community that loves. This has been in a context of a lot of news headlines in the past month: a mass shooting, hurricanes, fires, earthquakes and floods. This is in the midst of a nation divided. I don't stand with answers but only a heavy sigh and a willingness to step out in obedience and try to make a difference in one person's life.
A blessing and a burden is to be vulnerable and honest.
The past few years has been an unraveling of myself and a building up from the ground in order to transform me closer to the example of Christ. It is a letting go of my hard work, a letting go of my adult kids so that they may become uniquely themselves, and letting go of everything safe and comfortable. I wish I could say the work is easy but a strengthening and deepening of character never is.
God does not give us a spirit of fear so I let go and allow Him to change me into a more authentic, flawed version of me.
The result ... a deeper joy and a broader gratefulness.
I have come to believe less is better. God is in the midst. An open embrace just as you are speaks more to the depth of one's soul. That is what community is all about. With gratitude and praise, we appreciate the blessings we do not deserve but our honored to receive.
They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Acts 2:46
October and candy corn go hand in hand. I leapt from my computer screen, exchanging writing this post in order to hang out with a bunch of high school kids, youth group. I was slowed by the humility of prayer. un-expectantly, in the midst of our quiet words, our youth pastor handed each one of us a candy corn; the Lord had revealed through the holy spirit someone who held on to un-forgiveness. Each of us was to think of one person we needed to forgive. Gathered in silence around the fire, we stood in the stillness of our hearts. Through quiet prayer, each of us were able to identify a person or circumstance in order to let go. Individually, we tossed our tiny piece of candy into the fire.
As the sweet remembrance rose in the fragrance of autumn, we forgave ourselves too.
Then we prayed.
I love trains and sunsets. As I sat under orange skies, a train passed at just the right time. In the business of audits, God isn't looking through financial spreadsheets but instead our willingness to do the hard work of a jeep trail on the inside - blazing roads of light and darkness, we loosen our grip to trust a living God.
Depth and breadth - may you open your arms wide.
As I thought about my website, i remembered the early prayer: "Lord God, use me to reach one person." And, then I opened my hands and blew the dry seeds of a dandelion across technology through a website and a willingness to fall and skin my knees in order to grow deeper in a relationship with Christ.
The second night of watching the video series in the bible study, I smiled. The same pastor using video and words was highlighting a ministry for hundreds of young girls 1/2 way across the world and I smiled. I smile at the folks that encourage me through their ministries and example of faith.
An introductory song and introductions to an audit, it is the beginning steps to something bigger. I pray God challenges you, too, as we have a limited amount of time in this world. May the breaking of bread in the name of Jesus Christ awaken your soul to His goodness. May you authentically love and be loved as Christ loves us.
And the Lord added to their numbers daily those who were being saved Acts 2:47
"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made." F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
I entered through the side door. Making Vichyssoise soup, served cold with lady fingers, I sat glued to the stories of the roaring twenties where parties and old money oozed of aristocracy. Big hats for women, cigars for men echoed through caverns of dusty dregs of a bygone web. I sat with an old man. The house creaked with the whisper of years slipping through the chime of a clock.
Jack Dempsey, Wall Street, Hollywood Park, his distant memory was alive and vibrant, the daily routine had slipped. His frail body hunched over, he wondered why the gardener, who had been there for some forty years, still insisted on carving the outdoor bushes into small green marshmallow mounds - if only to annoy him. The evenings drew him into a library where the books were dark and dusty. Cigarette smoke billowed through vellum pages.
He was gruff, sarcastic and angry now, the cloak of youth encircling shadows of time. Stories of live lobsters crawling out of the refrigerator as a type of fisherman's catch and a whispered name ... bunny. It was't his wife but it was clear, she was lodged deeply into the fabric of a man's coat, his coat but I didn't ask questions.
My own days turned into weeks and then months and I wondered whether this chance meeting was truly by accident. Sixty years his junior, there wasn't family or friends that lived in the area; I guess I brought some levity to his tired days. He had a niece, though, from the mid-west who occasionally came to visit. She was maybe forty-five years older than me. I looked forward to her visits.
Searching into paths of curiosity, wondering and grasping for life's golden door, which mediocrity
beholds the key? or does it lie within the hands of fate? (1983) or Life is not eternal, yet faith is said
to be, follow thy path of worship and falter to thy knees for life is like a rainbow and God will
grant our dreams to be (1981).
Words I wrote. This niece was a published poet; we connected through words. As I look back, however, in her attempt to help, the words she changed still sound impoverished to me, as if the authenticity of my own words were being compromised. You see, she wanted to change words in my poems, my words. Still, I began to gain her trust.
She was a woman of faith and I had given up on God - I didn't measure up to my own judgment of Him and therefore closed the door or so I thought.
A meal and a judgment: Time and age had separated me with this man but one thing intricately wove us together, our doubts of faith. Unbeknown to me, God was using a third person to cast a sliver of light as if the door was cracked open, ever so slightly.
That experience seems a lifetime ago and yet, with memory, I am still connected.
Fast forward thirty-five years to today. God's time is not our time. Faith in someone greater than ourselves. Hope in something we do not yet see. Love, the intangible that outlasts us. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Three days ago, I walked out into the morning light where the image of mountains on an old glass window caught my eye. Immediately words drifted into my mind about the reflection in a mirror; I stumbled through a quick search on google to find the rest of the words.
I posted this picture on Instagram - the place reserved for my youth or young-at-heart community. I walked out one door - my home into another door - a busy work environment and earned a paycheck. Hours passed in a shuffle of papers, ideas and people. The day was finished and I headed back home, walked the dog, rested for an hour, dusted my face in the mirror and drove my jeep, for the first time in a while, back out - Wednesday Youth Group. A Bethel Worship conference message prompted my heart in a roomful of high school kids and a group of men who normally meet in the space for a men's bible study. These words resonated with me on a big TV screen as the pastor at the conference began his sermon with ... For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Unapologetically, I linked the two events in one day as not a coincidence but a bit of communication to keep hope in God's plan for my life.
I thought back to an old man, a lunch and a white table where we watched the gardner trim hedges into marshmallow mounds - I smiled. I smiled at God's timing. I smiled that the memory some thirty-five years later still has an influence on me.
So ... how do I wrap this post up?
I wrap it up with faith, hope and love. My poet friend - with strong faith wanted to change my words or maybe God wanted to intricately continue the conversation through time, space and distance in order to deepen my roots of trust in a God that is concerned with my character.
We are here but a moment but someday we are in a new home.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.
My friends, it is not by accident you stumbled upon these words. May God, alone, strengthen, encourage, equip and deepen your faith through an intimate conversation ... and a journey, where faith, hope and love are not just words on a page but a love letter between you and a savior named Jesus.
May God continue to write your (timbrenotes) worship song.
The first picture is from Fotolia, song may be purchased from I-tunes, the second picture and stories are authentically my own. Material is copywritten 2017.
I climbed narrow and steep iron grid steps to a second story potter's shed. Sunlight filtered through patterned wood. The sound of water trickled over broken bits of colored tiles.
Twice in six weeks, I have taken a tile making class on a remote island where the story of history is told. She takes a bit of simple clay in her hands to roll a ball. Feeling the residue of earth between her palms, she makes a log shape coil and bends it into an upside-down u shape and says the word, memory.
This bit of clay, she said, will automatically re-coil into the same shape (almost as a memory) unless we manipulate the substance.
"We need to stop trying to fit God into our mold" is an idea that keeps resonating with me. Imagine a busy doctor's office or a deli where a million things is happening and you need to WAIT and wait and wait until your number is called. I work in such a place as that, where the second I hit the building, I'm going a hundred miles an hour... behind the scenes and in front too. Now, add that to a good many folks I care about that live out of town which causes me to travel a lot. Add that to ministry - you know, where the dependency on Christ leads you to invest in people's stories. Add that to several pod-casts, a conference and some classes and well, I crumble - a bit ... like dry, cracked clay.
I pause. My lens narrows to the sunlight stretching in through slivered windows. The mold stamped as if with a cross, the clay - soft, moldable; broken pieces of colored pottery washed up upon the shore. All of these ingredients draw me into a story, this story. I pause in order to stop the internal noise and the external schedule. I pause in order to be fully present in a fleeting moment passing quickly through my fingers.
I pause. The bible is filled with scripture about the potter's clay. And, as I received careful instructions to make a simple tile, I could not help but reflect on God deconstructing me. Not only is my image of him being re-shaped but everything about me is upside down. I WAIT for the potter to mold.
Prayer - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer, and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. NIV Philippians 4:6
To be honest, I was completely exhausted before I got to this potter's shed. Work and ministry had me tired and yet, I needed this weekend with family to be memorable. I had to pray my way through the details and trust the potter's hands for a story worth re-telling.
There are plenty of viable options for your time. There are for mine too and yet, I pray and ask God for just a bit more strength to reach out to others or to find a pool of reserve energy to write. I do these things not because I am a nice person, not because I am earning my way to heaven but in my willingness to be moldable clay in the father's hands, I trust His plans. I invest in the story of other people as a tangible reflection of my faith; it is the only way I know to spread the good news of the gospel.
The potter's hand. The next step is color.
A map with my name and a diagram with color swatches sits beside my indented clay. It is ready for the parts that give it vibrancy. In us, it is the people and experiences that scatter color like streaks of sunsets across ocean shores. I wait. I wait for the tile to be fired. I wait for a series of steps I do not see. I wait for the tile to be finished and mailed in a box to my doorstep.
I wait for the potter's hands.
I am simply ONE person. How could the father use this broken clay?
Do not give up hope.
The first thing you see when you enter this potter's shed, is a large ocean shell filled with broken pieces of colored clay. These fragments were found along the shore of the Pacific ocean this past summer. Literally, at high tide, bits of broken pottery are churned up and scattered along the beach. The potter's hand gathers them up.
Memory - is the title for this post. Memory - clay rolled into a u-shape will eventually return to that position without the work of molding, shaping and breathing. Will we be made new? If we are called to a growing, vibrant faith, then we are called to trust the potter's hands; he will use our experiences to create something valuable in us. How many times in our lives, have we come to believe what isn't true about our worth? about our ability to live small lives? In order for God to re-shape memory into His constant presence and goodness, we have to be willing to bend freely and rest in the warmth of His hands.
This world is vying for survival one failure at a time. God enters your story and mine to create something beautiful. We are both the broken and colored bits of pottery scooped up from the shores as well as the hands to scoop up other broken pieces. Your story intertwined with my story for the sake of a greater story.
My daughter's friend posted a picture on social media of a pastor I remember from years ago whose teaching was scholarly and biblical. I stumbled upon that same pastor who was now hosting a pod-cast. That led me to a conference out of town. That led me to a random table under a tree; I sat alone with a plate of food and my own internal thoughts. That led to my being available to another woman who had gathered two other women at the conference and wondered if they could sit with me for a meal. That led to a conversation about faith. That led to me being transparent. That led to an invitation to join other women on social media. 1500+ women who feel betrayed by the church.
A hidden community where the broken colored pieces of clay are scattered upon the shores; I count myself as one of them and yet Jesus is even more present; the church more vibrant. I scatter words across a computer screen; ones that express my doubt and vulnerability and ones where I encourage other mother's to be the hands and feet of Christ. The potter's hands working in every place I see. Encouraged by other people through social media, I continue to trust His plan.
As I stepped away from this potter's shed for a bit of lunch in town, I opened up social media to see a picture.
It was a simple picture captured of a young person broken, tired and disappointed with life. The picture was taken in secret by a mother; it will never make the news or be flashed across social media ... and yet, I was trusted with the story. The tender, vulnerable, transparency of one person pounded by the struggles of this life. I reached out with a few simple words in a new community.
God's ways are not ours. He doesn't grant wishes, although He does hear our prayers, He invites us to see the broken lives of people; he invites us into a story. When we stop putting God into a mold, we are available to be molded.
Our joy is seeing the joy in others; we rejoice. We share in the sadness too; we cry. We hope; we pray; we worship. It is a community of broken bits that when put together create something new. With the loving hands of a caring artisan, the story unfolds. That is the invitation. That is the community. That is where we find God.
What if ... you could only do ONE thing for God?
One thing, one word - Hope.
Too many people today are robbed of hope. Hope.
You might be the ONLY person the potter can use to reach ONE person nobody else could reach and likewise so next time you gather clay into YOUR hands, pause.
These pictures and stories are my own; the video found on Utube.
Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit saps a person's strength.
"Something a little lighter next time, like the Twelfth Night."
The last quote from the classic 1990's movie, Shakespeare in Love by John Madden (not to be confused with the once Oakland Raiders coach, John Madden - a name I grew up hearing).
The joke is I LOVE conversation starters. I have a book in my car, a recipe box in the kitchen, a deck of cards in the living room all with the intention of words (words to prompt, words to coax, words to educate). The gimmicks have become relics (dusty and outdated) but the need to connect has not.
A generation ago, before the invention of social media, I was combing the isles of merchandise at a youth workers convention hall. It was the days were free stuff was everywhere. The audience was geared toward big kids who hang out with younger kids so it was really cool stuff. Games and gadgets, balls, music cd's, pens, bibles, things that make noise, things to soften noise; it was a carnival for the senses. A curriculum caught my eye. It was so simple it was embarrassing - a box of random pictures ... for thought-provoking discussion. I bought it.
Fast forward to this picture of multimedia: What do you see?
One word answers:
First thought: #possibility #worldview #global #music #faith #depth #introspection #resilience #storage #hope #brainstorm #ideas #connection #travel #weatherthestorms #collaboration #dialog #reachingout #direction #future #wholeness
Culture has embraced words like, "none", "done" to describe religious affiliation. I get it. I am there with you UNTIl the Holy Spirit grabs hold of me and words such as hope and faith seep into the sap of this old tree. Today - so much sadness in Houston, Texas, in the streets where I live, in the news, with a co-worker I stand beside, or in my own aloneness but I am reminded of that simple box of pictures in a pile of merchandise at a youth convention. The curriculum is so simple.
LOVE until it hurts. Love deeply. Enter into the story of someone else until LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOR is not words on a page but the deep marrow in your bones. Jesus entered the story. Your story.
Paul (in writing a letter to the Philippians):
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.
If I didn't know this person and I had never opened a bible or gone to church, there are two things that stick out: Loving Christ and loving others deeply. Simple, right? It's risky to love. It's risky to offer water. It's risky to be vulnerable.
I used to think I was born to early, then too late but mostly ... at just the right time.
Social media is that box of pictures - only the pictures are out of the box. Yes, yes, I get it. Social media is bad. It is diluting relationships. It is changing the brain chemistry. It is - fill in the blank but it also allows us to enter into a story. Will you?
So - I lightened up my blog with a hashtag skit - to laugh. God was the inventor of laughter so fewer words and a bigger heart. Prayers fellow travelers on a journey.
#community #water #brokenBread #washedFeet #theCross #journey #hope #perseverance #faith #love
The air suffocated thought into fragmented syllables - floating particles swirled upward, softly, slowly, deliberately at first then fell loosely toward abounding green foliage of an immersed garden. I pedaled faster.
An expression of pain - where the internal collided with the external, swollen & broken skin. I was only a kid but I noticed what others did not. The thought drifts in unapologetically into forbidden ground.
It was the second of four days outside with high school students. It was a place where each of us accepted a challenge to grow - to grow physically, emotionally, spiritually and for some, to grow through fear. I could write all week about those experiences. I decided to again pick up a keyboard.
Why? Because if I don't, I can't breathe. If I don't, something valuable and important dies inside me.
This year was a heavy winter in Northern California where the water levels at Lake Tahoe are again brimming with abundance. It is where the crystal, clear water is blue and pristine. Even through the warm temperatures of mid-July, pastels of white accentuate mountain-tops illuminating the colors of winter with summer.
For 6 days, I was one of 43 people at a camp led by guides familiar with terrain. This particular day, our group was divided in half. We descended steep canyons where our footing was slippery on loose soil. Careful to avoid poison oak, we sunk lower and lower toward the canyon base. It looked pretty straight forward. Gorgeous surroundings, rocks sticking out of submerged water, tall cliffs and foliage. The caveat was that the water was cold, high and strong.
We had to travel light.
For some, the journey was effortless. They jumped from rock to rock, shimmied up steep cliffs, jumped off ledges, submerged themselves into deep underwater caves where bubbles floated easily to the surface. In an effort not to be a drain on the group, I leaped as best I could. Water/hiking shoes can be slippery so hitting my shin early in the trip, left some residual blood. The crisp, cool (snow run-off) water eased the sting.
At first, the steps on rock was easy; the ones just beneath the surface were a bit trickier. The external pressure to keep up contrasted with the internal pressure to fit in. I found some reserve courage and jumped from a 15 foot cliff because it was easier than the hike down. I negotiated thought; the current of cold water alongside snakes was preferable to a steady footing on slippery ground. I let the rocks skim my stomach as I inched my way upriver.
The guides had packed a communal lunch in water-friendly duffle bags. Somehow food tasted better after the hard work of an outdoor adventure.
Sitting on the ledge, I looked up. It is easy to notice the ones that could maneuver easily but it is the ones that things are difficult that get my attention. In a quick conversation, it was evident firewalls and passwords were easier than these locks. His physical frame reminded me of someone in high school where in a moment, I had the opportunity to do what I could not then. Reach out ... in prayer. Aligning himself with me (the oldest woman) would NOT lend itself well to a warrior amongst peers.
I could change my pace. Our leader intervened. One of the coolest guys I know with a deep abiding faith and a natural ability of inclusion, stepped into a dialog I could not hear but one that offered life through his words. It was evident by this young man's posture. The Kingdom of Heaven in the here and now where the distant off-screen players on a video game jump into the on-screen truth of being valued and loved - by the maker of heaven and earth and the people here on the journey. He just needed to leverage the risk of the unknown into the opportunity of being welcomed.
A second thing happened. A soft-spoken young man in his twenties (a guide) came alongside this young man for the walk back home. Prophetic words ... take one step here ... put your hand on this rock and pull yourself to this ledge and watch for the pitfalls here. You can do this. I am right here with you. These were words not just from God (symbolically) but are stepping stones from people.
His voice was patient and kind. It was so soft, I could barely hear it. I stretched my attention toward the quiet. I think this young man did the same. His words continued beyond the current of the river toward the character of Job. A man from the bible who despite loosing his possessions, family, friends and health, clung to faith and hope. In the midst of heartbreak, Job kept his grip on God. Job is again mentioned in the bible, through one of the gospel writers, James. His strength to persevere in life's adversities was noteworthy, even then.
Job is a tiny chapter in the Old Testament of the bible which is sandwiched between the book of Esther and the words of Psalms. So few words written for a man with great depth of hope. Job's character pleased God. This was an interesting and seemingly random conversation between a counselor, a man and me on a canyoneering trip deep in the heart of the woods.
The hope of an outdoor adventure with high school kids is that something will stick. A thought, an experience, a conversation will extend it's reach far beyond summer.
An expression of pain - where the internal collides with the external and because of faith, I just cannot NOT do something about it. Reaching out takes an element of risk. I know and I am scared. The truth about me is I have always been scared and a certain element of desperation seeps in. A word that lacks hope.
I don't know what that young man's story was some forty years ago because I didn't have the confidence or fortitude to reach out. I only know what I could see on the outside. His knuckles were bloody and cracked because he sucked on them. The humiliation must have been exhausting. I write, I am a volunteer youth worker and reach out to others, in part because of him and others like him and partly because of my internal conversation of faith. I reach out imperfectly and flawed. He, like me - another broken colored glass washed upon the shore of humanity.
I am not just an outside observer but an honest participant where the taste of not being alone demands a letting go of everything that feels safe and comfortable. 27 days ago, I was peripherally and publicly ushered into being a mother in the LGBTQ community: A mother with a deep, abiding faith who loves first because He first loved me.
Everything about my transactional relationship of love has been put to the test. This isn't the only thing that has changed but everything has changed. I awkwardly grow into loving. I do it imperfectly and flawed and loosen my image of being all put together in order to grow in authenticity.
Sitting, exhausted from crawling, jumping, swimming and hanging on, the youth leader called each of us to find a place on the rock and spend time with God. The rays of sunshine stretched it's warmth across my wet legs. I looked up ... and saw a garden of green foliage growing from a foundation of water. It's beauty reminded me of God's transaction. A son, Jesus, dying on a cross not to be welcomed into a club but into a relationship. To be honest, I don't know what that looks like ... but then again, what would faith and hope be if I did.
May you walk in peace and a growing relationship, my brothers and sisters.
So ... what did I do on a Saturday? I sat down in a cafe and wrote ... and pressed post.
Peace be with you.
April Showers bring May flowers
The old paved road was worn and beaten down; neglect had eroded the edges into dry and crumbling mounds. The surrounding hills were sun kissed with blooms of bright yellow against Sapphire blue. The stems that held the fragile bursts were starting to become dry and brittle. It was only a matter of time. I ascended slowly breathing in the goodness of fragrance while exhaling the fragments of me. I arrived, took off my shoes and stepped carefully onto holy ground.
Lord God, I pray you would take my simple words and experiences and use them for your glory. With less of me and more of you, reach into the hearts of your people in order that your grace and mercy would shine.
As a kid, I loved to lie down in childhood meadows looking upward toward the clouds and heaven. The light and fluid air creating a kaleidoscope of texture and brevity carried me away. I was the dreamer and God was the designer for stories I had yet to read.
What knocks you out of your slumber?
Love is patient; love is kind.
There is an intimate conversation that takes place in a relationship. The one with my heavenly father is at times very simplistic. I whisper truths found in little details: never grow weary of doing what is right and true. The actual verse is found in Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Soarin' California. It has since been changed to Soarin' the World but for the handful of times I experienced the ride, it left an imprint of imagery and imagination stamped upon my soul. In a makeshift bucket like air balloon/glider, with feet dangling I was brought through the majesty of our great state. The sights of California seen through the lens of 7-8 minutes: virtual reality gave me wings to fly: skiing mountaintops, traversing through narrow channels of rivers, above lemon orchards, atop the dim lit skyscrapers of metropolis, to the pounding surf of the Pacific Ocean, in a moment, the ingenuity of the minds of people with great childlike animation bring park lovers to the perfume of youth.
One little girl holds tightly the blueprints of her plans - instead she is knocked by surprise by a little boy lost and through love uses her sketches as a propeller toward flight; her designs were used for something far greater - love. In order to shine brightly among other stars and in the process the illumination casts whispers of hope.
If we take a journey ... we are better. If God intends to redeem and restore ... we are better. So what knocks you out of your slumber?
Hard work was the easy part. It is deeply engraved in my DNA. Reinforced through a culture that rewards responsibility and a conscientious demeanor. Praying earnestly through days, months and years, the conversation has deepened through the worship and surrender to a new place of maturity. Where I stand in the humble beating of my own heart and God answered in teeny, tiny ways. The first was the day before Easter ... in unfamiliar territory, I descended the elevator to an underground cement parking structure - cold and sterile, the echo of words resounded as a clanging noise.
As if placed with the gentle breathe of loving hands, I approached the shot-gun position of my car ... there upon the ground was one simple, perfectly formed purple flower waiting as a tender essence of love. A simple answer to a whispered prayer.
The second was only days ago. It was a simple metal medallion found on a cement pavement under afternoon skies of billowy white clouds and blue streaked strokes of silhouetted sunsets. I picked it up and turned it several times over trying to read the words imprinted around an engraving of Mary. Searching for the words through the internet: The Miraculous Medal points me to a Catholic Saint, Catherine Laboure who on November 27th 1830 had a vision of the Virgin Mary. The story lent itself to the replication of this small piece of jewelry with the words: O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Simple words etched upon a wondrous prayer; I looked upward toward heaven's call and inward toward the stillness of ponder.
Then today, I received via social media a picture that looked familiar. It was a medallion-type circular image of Madonna and child sent to me from Florence, Italy where the text of friendship stretched miles through time and space as a prelude to the Italian Opera I was about to see. Beloved Giacomo Puccini speaks what few can sing: the story of faith and sacrifice sung in the gentle words of a language that transcends a culture of anonymity into the tender, sweetness of love.
Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh...
My heart was beating. The amphitheater was dark. I entered with open hands - waiting.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1Corinthians 13:7
I have purposely avoided writings about my step-father, not because he didn't set examples of unconditional love but because his love goes deep within my heart. He had numbing and tingling in his fingers. He had sold his beloved remote controlled air gliders because of lack of money; he didn't tell my mother and tried to spare her pain. Only bits and pieces of the story remain but when he went into a required surgery to repair what had been years of living with a slight fracture in his neck, his precarious position still left him with strength beyond his ability.
We joked through the years that no man would replace him. Sitting in recovery vulnerable in a hospital gown and wheelchair, he said to my mother: I've changed my mind. I want you to love again. He lived for another 6 weeks or so and in the comfort of his home, slipped quickly and unexpectedly into heaven's door.
If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Anf if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; loved does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:1-7
Experiential in my faith, I wait upon the Lord for the unfolding of the story. I am surrounded by folks in pain. From marriages that are broken, to parents struggling, to young people held captive by a hostile culture. At the same time, reconciling my hard work with creative spirit. Stepping out in obedience, I take a chance in the kingdom of faith, using words to point others to the cross.
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. Galatians 6:2-5
As I rode my bike along the shores of pounding wind and water, I took a narrow path toward what I thought was home. The shortcut was instead a tiny and narrow path with waist high fields and cliffs where all sorts of creatures lie. I pedaled faster toward common ground. Christ is about redeemed relationships, where the journey is in the deep, rich soil of our souls. The little girl in me hears the lie that somehow If I was smarter or tried harder, I alone could take the pain from another person's shoulders but alas, the only thing I can offer is the cross. We run away from ourselves toward, not emptiness, but into the arms of a good father.
A good father. A father willing to drive all morning with his 5 year old daughter in search of the yellow (Beauty & the Beast) dress. It was the one she had hoped for. Disappointment as the dresses were gone. In exasperation, the father showed his cell phone and the assurance of a dress somewhere lost in the back. Offering to stay all afternoon looking through the shipment of boxes in the back room, a father (and a daughter) wait.
How much greater is the love of our heavenly father. On my knees in prayer, I have earnestly sought the father, son and holy spirit and in the process have witnessed small miracles. Surrounded by people struggling, we offer hope though the cross. God has always been about strong relationships: marriage, family, friends, church, neighbors; we never grow weary in doing what is right and true because we love deeply. We see the fruit of following the narrow path because it is there where we find peace... and our joy is knowing the people we love - (young, old, men, women, sons, daughters) are safe, held within loving hands of a good father.
Words heard: as followers of Christ, we either 1) recently came out of a trial 2) going through a trial, or 3) about to go through a trial - and in the process we stand with empty hands to receive the promise of redemption.
Where is your hope? God has specifically entrusted you and me to be the hands and feet of Christ. In the midst of life, like you, I stand in deep blue water - trusting. Reminded of the cross, bearing my soul because my hope has always been that God could possibly use my words and experiences for good, I offer up a simple prayer of peace for all who read these words.
The bedside manner of Jesus is tender and gentle - open the scriptures for yourself; be real and vulnerable because in those moments of humility, God is faithful to hear your cries. I wait and I hope ... until He calls me home. Lord God, may peace and a quiet breeze blow through this website.
With all my heart, mind, soul and strength,
Morning Rush - I worked a full day - racing from task to task then headed toward LA traffic where I arrived late and up early to a full day of Disneyland where i found joy in the midst with my two early twenty something aged daughters. I was conservative on my social media stance as to not bring attention to a well-deserved day off. I am an observer by nature; let's face it, the expensive price tag, tired crying kids, stressed parents, it is not always conducive to the happiest place on earth. Up early so I could make the long drive to be at work by 11, phone down to 2%, I forgot the charging cord, music pounding, traffic at a stand-still, headache from no caffeine, Los Angeles highway lane changes, people rushing. I was going to be late and already borderline exhausted, I made the diversion to a google mapped Starbucks off the freeway - placed my order, brief chat with late teen barista ... all met with: Yes, same!
Tummy round, shoes flat, hair straight, the outward appearance was a pregnancy glow, one I cherished. Inwardly, faith was tugging. It was twenty years ago. I was involved in a Wednesday women's bible study, I was involved in a women's Christian organization, I was involved with a part-time evening/weekend job, I was involved (or tried to be) in supporting my husband's career, I was involved with helping in my older children's schools and activities, I was involved and intentional about building a home (not just a house) but as I stood on the church lawn, I looked not just upward into the clouds but inward toward a calling. There was a peace deep inside and i paused.
I prayed. I listened. It was a sense of belonging that loomed in the air as though I was meant to be in a place I had yet to know. A teenager had committed suicide. I didn't know the person. I hadn't grown up in the church. I had never even been to youth camp; I had always stood on the peripheral door of acceptance and come to believe that is where I belonged in the church as well. I loved Jesus. Perhaps I had something of worth to say to young men and women in high school about faith. I let the thought dribble toward the sidelines.
The problem with the church is it has become linear.
This has been an exhausting month, emotionally, physically, spiritually. I stand at the precipice of change tipping my toes over the paved concrete of a swimming pool wondering do I have what it takes to write another post ..... or blow my consecutive writing streak? Twenty years later, do I have something to say to a generation of kids and parents and a thought about faith?
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. Ernest Hemingway
I was a last minute walk-on player for a personnel committee of four individuals that had the task of interviewing a panel of applicants for an entry-level part-time position. Our questions were carefully divided amongst the judges to inspire broad-based answers. Each applicant had gifts and talents conducive to being a good fit for the team but one was the inspiration behind this month's post.
College degree, check. Extra-curricular activities, check. Tangible goals, check. A vision for the future, check. Humanitarian efforts, check. Quite frankly, the achievements of this applicant were measurable and impressive and the delivery was confident and quantitative. There was no doubt this person was qualified but as I listened to his/her accolades, the volunteer youth worker in me, quietly sighed ... I get it. The divide between this young person and the other applicants was palatable.
"For the first time in UCLA history, freshman applications have surpassed six figures. According to preliminary data, more than 102,000 high school seniors applied to admission to UCLA for fall 2017. (Did you catch that? Yes, I said 102,000 applications for 17,500 spots.) They represent the most economically, ethnically and geographically diverse pool of talent to ever apply to UCLA. Contributing to this success is a record number of applications from California high school seniors."
I've got everything ... on Monday, I ate through one apple. On Tuesday, I ate through two pears. On Wednesday, I ate through three plums. On Thursday, I ate through four strawberries and on Friday, I ate through five oranges. Anyone who works in youth ministries ... or is active in suburbia U.S.A. knows the pressure to succeed. I have yet to meet a young person that intentionally wanted to disappoint their parent/s. As parent/s, we want our children to experience all that life has to offer. I have yet to meet a parent that wanted their child to fail.
This is year #10 in college costs; as such, I feel as though I have a tiny seed of knowledge of who that 102,000 applications represent. They are an accomplished group of young men and women of cultural, gender and ethnic diversity. They have demonstrated excellence in academics, sports, music, drama, art, SAT scores, AP classes, mock trial teams, leaders in the community, in the church, in the world. They likely have overcome struggles and have demonstrated perseverance and have a story. They are likely represented by a strong support team: family, friends, coaches, teachers, youth groups; they have access to resources and ideas, churches and have lived on a field where success is measured in quantifiable terms.
It's getting harder and harder for Christianity to compete in a culture of appetite. Let's break this down.
I. The Ripple
Students - now certainly, a busy schedule does not represent all families, all students but it is important to understand the pressure that surrounds them. They have grown up in a world of prospect and possibility.
II. The Momentum
Parents - we have become a generation that lives through our children. We fight for them, we shield them, we advocate for them, we protect them. We have become dependent on our children's success or failure.
III. The Culture and the Church
The fields are green and lush. A sprinkling of rain has transformed the musty, dry scent of heat scorched dirt and weeds into the blossoms of dew - scented with the fragrance of hope and life. An orange colored hummingbird lands at eye-level. It hovers outside my window amid a bouquet of tiny red flowers. With my feet perched up on what was once a vintage school bleacher plank of wood, I watch this fragile life stretching it's long narrow beak into nectar that will nourish it's otherwise lifeless body toward flight.
The church is linear while the culture is more reminiscent of rocks on a Mancala board. Rather than the orderly pews in a sanctuary, the petrified stones have been formed through a momentum of cause and effect.
Team 1: Days after I was on an interviewing panel of judges for a part-time position, I attended a good-bye work party for my husband. With 75+ people in attendance, men and women visibly were in tears. He had built a loyal team of colleagues that spoke of him building culture and climate that allowed them to flourish. His team was solid. I thought about the concept of team - at work, in school, on fields and courts.
Team 2: Klay, Green and Curry were executing magic on a court. Well rehearsed Set Plays, their offense and defense was solid. These three players from the Golden State Warriors had built a strong team and we, the audience, peered through a windowed screen. A flagrant foul upon Curry forced him to the ground; there was no drama in this fall as it caught him off guard. Green noticed: set stance, slight turn, chest bump and a look. It was a subtle team play that spoke 1000 words - don't mess with Curry.
That began my love relationship with Green - there was a subtle communication between teammates.
Draymond Green: power forward (6'7", 220 lb, 2012 2nd round draft pick)
Stephen Curry: point guard (6'3", 190 lb, 2009 1st round draft pick)
Klay Thompson: shooting guard (6'7", 215 lb, 2011 1st round draft pick)
Team 3: For the first time in my life I got an impassioned cell phone call from my father over the determining games ushering in the final four NCAA basketball elite. I was ALL IN on the conversation. I was secretly (like dad or maybe because of him) hoping for a Duck/Bull-dog final but settled for a Gonzaga/No Carolina competition for all the eggs.
New cable system, exhausted from a day of work and weekend fundraiser to raise money for kids, I settled in with a DVR remote and a late invitation to the game. I was sure to turn off social media so as not to get any spoiler alerts. The pre-game seconds did not disappoint, the current spectacle on a screen and the soon to follow social media conversation meant I was both spectator and participant. A full month of conversations boiled down to two minutes left (thirty minutes late to live coverage) ... until the dreaded happened. Because of all the foul plays, the DVR stopped suddenly. A deer in the headlights look, in a second I knew there was nothing I could do. Weeks of watching games boiled down to the last two minutes where the Bull-dogs were up by one point; anything could happen! The Bull-dog/Tar Heels game was over and I had missed it. I could yell? A last ditch effort to try to watch a televised finish without a final score was blocked at the glass. Pretty quickly, I saw the disappointing finish. With technical fouls and a lack of rebounds, Zags did not get the look for a game winning attempt.
I eventually called my dad who said, S--- give them some breathing room to play the F--- game.
On Monday I hear social media is the problem with kids these days.
The Artistry of Strings: With a solo complementary ticket at Will-Call, I was met at the entrance to the concert theater by two high school kids who asked me with all assurance whether I wanted "with or without" notes. Pausing, I demonstrated my intellectual vulnerability which in turn, provided an invitation to a common language. We were momentary equals but I knew they were among a class of superb string musicians and I was but an observing student in a room of musical athletes.
A google search for program notes: String Trio in G, Op. 9, No 1 (Ludwig van Beethoven) of the LA Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall is an example of a language of which I have little familiarity. At this event, however, I sat not new to an orchestra symphony but open as a student ready to absorb as a sponge soaks up water the exquisite play of sound between just a handful of instruments. The conversation spoken within this room was masterful; yes, a violin, viola and piano but the subtle ambiance of love, connection and inclusion was performed. First, the clothing - a common etiquette of formal attire where light bounced ever so slightly off of diamond gems of stone and prism crisp white starched shirts and ties, next the theater - vaulted, arched with scrupulous swirls where sound was swept through crevices of wood, hands - meticulously exercised through hours of practice and literary study, faces - chiseled with the passion of reaching deep into the soul of history and self and finally, the interaction between a team of colleagues separated through time and space but together to perform a commanding story. I held an invitation to a game-changing musical score.
On Tuesday I hear the lack of responsibility is the problem with kids these days.
Fundraiser 1: The benefits of music in schools has been well documented over the past two decades. With fiscal pressures on public schools, Physical Education as well as Music and Arts were the first discretionary cuts to a budget. Luckily, there were and continue to be advocates for kids.
Competitive by nature, I was amid a strong formidable group of volunteers. Now, almost fifteen years later, I still remember the full-court pressure. It was an evening of raising money specifically for music and arts. Each table was assigned the task of building a theme that would draw donors toward spending money for a good cause. We built the bow of a pirate ship at the front corner of the room. Costumes, over-stuffed treasure chests with imitation gold and silver with the tune of Pirates of the Caribbean playing through the wood of a cross-bow. Giving up our coveted first place reputation, raising thousands of dollars, we lost that year to a valued opponent who brought in a Harley Davidson Motorcycle; a Biker Chick beat the Pirate Wench that year.
Fundraiser 2: The culture is changing. Almost twenty years later and the robust team of volunteers is dwindling. Preferring to write a check, or working full-time jobs, or slowing down from the fast pace busyness of life, the fork in the road has come.
Raising money for technology and enrichment classes for kids, I was a team alongside people who have grown children and young children at the same time thereby solidifying their foot firmly in a generation of the past and present. Silent auction items, Live auction items, bid sheets, booths, costumes, prizes and food, families come together in unity for the common goal of not just money but experience.
On Wednesday I hear the parents are the problem with kids these days.
We have a race issue in this Country?
We raise a generation of kids where everyone gets a trophy. Is it really that far reaching to believe they might extend that to an adult playing field.
On Monday, I ate through one apple. On Tuesday, I ate through two pears. On Wednesday, I ate through three plums and on Thursday, I ate through four strawberries and on Friday ...
The full court pressure had been mounting. Taking my rear view lens off, the ones where my sunglasses are perched upon my head, I stared at the game plays of a fifty plus year old life reading the shots and missed shots of a player with 100% effort and 100% heart. It is not by accident that I gravitated toward a player such as Draymond Green and whether you like him, don't like him or have never heard of him, he is an emotional player; I get that.
Having prayed, having surrendered my plans, having squelched my desires, like water bursting through the hole of a tea kettle, my steam blew in words in a crowded shopping mall hushed at a table of two amid a food court of a variety of cuisine and culture. Walking away, I opened social media. Getting a reminder of being in a game that people not only get me but encourage me and I get back on the court.
Yes, there is the abuse of social media and a long list of why technology is NOT our friend but in a culture where kids are getting squeezed by the world, their schools, their churches, their neighborhoods, their teachers, their coaches, their friends and their families, it might just provide the escape valve from the pressure.
Before we get to Sunday, we have to venture through Saturday and like the full-course meal of variety, our kids are faced with every possible morsel of taste and texture. We, those folks, that put ALL OF THE EGGS into one basket push through our own doubts into a full-court pressure of replacing the dropped balls of prospect and probability with the scribbled scripture notes of faith and hope.
I have given up sugar for Lent; it is my tiny seed of restraint as a reminder of the anticipation of Easter.
Before we get frustrated reaching kids for the sake of the gospel, we have to understand why they aren't showing up to youth group, why parents are putting other activities first and why we are failing as a church. Lets be perfectly clear what we ask.
Those of us in the teeny, tiny seed of a calling toward youth are up against a Goliath-sized culture with a bible and a pen. The week after my last post, I said to myself, I'm OUT. It is too tough. And then, through prayer, a bible, worship songs, restraint and social media, I heard the proverbial:
Green - get back onto the court; we need you - I need you.
An intense incident at the high school this week reminded me the harvest is great and the workers are few. 102,000 pieces of paper sent via technology to only one of many schools that say there is a lot of folks doing good things ... but who will help the 80,000+ disappointed that hear the whisper hard work wasn't enough. And, so I made the diversion to a google mapped Starbucks off the freeway - placed my order, brief chat with late teen barista: all met with - Yes, same and offer the hope of the cross where I can.
We love people into the Kingdom. The culture is kin to a Mancala board because people come from all sorts of starting points and rather than a one size fits all approach, we become vulnerable, pray and allow God to do the rest.
I remember another parent I didn't know expressing her concern that while at the Junior High outreach program dispersing food and clothing to the homeless, my daughter was hugging people. This week, we were asking high school students to get out of their comfort zone and stand in the gap of a generation that needs to hear the hope of Christ.
God asks us to put our hope in Him and with all of the eggs in one basket, press into hope, faith and love, all for a ticket for a dusty dirt road that will welcome folks onto a bus where one by one, they are carried home. Jesus was crucified and died on the cross for our sins; the good news is found on the third day when he rose again.
I purposely used blue, purple and scarlet as the colors of LENT so that you might hear the triumphant bag pipes of EASTER where Jesus was resurrected through the promise of water turned to wine so that you, too, may hear the promises for your life.
Blessings to you - forever,
I purposely chose the end of this song ... because we are but a tiny dot on a map where others have gone before and others will come after us.
Note: having missed the end of the NCAA final two minutes, I know how this one ends but I don't yet know the dashes in between. May you, too, be in the deep end of faith - that is where He calls us to be!
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Songs may be purchase from I-Tunes
Video link through You Tube
Info found on Google
Stories uniquely my own - copyright 2017.
Kingdom work takes some sweat and balls - so church give us a little breathing room.
I was at a youth meeting last week where a student leader was leaving for bible college. The pastor, his father was there to offer up prayer and support for his son. We started talking about him taking down 27 trees surrounding his home. Because the drought had been so severe for so long, the trees had a weakened immune system. Normally, he said, a tree fights off a predator over time by squeezing the invader out but instead the compromised trees were hollow on the inside and no longer had the strength to persevere.
Three years ago, I responded to an invitation. The challenge was to think differently about ourselves. We are women and entrepreneurs. A stay-at-home mom and host, she pitched the notion that if we could do anything beyond our current circumstances, what would it be? It was in the assumption that we could squeeze a bit more of ourselves outside of the toothpaste tube of our circumstances. Hers was to write. As we were really just acquaintances, I noticed on social media that her itty, bitty idea made the New York best seller list for her book last month. Effort, hard work and a mental determination to endure the opposing battle, her direction shifted as a result of a gathering.
For me, it was a silent whisper to reach others for the Kingdom of God - a lofty "church" goal in a handing out of ministry assignments. In actuality, perhaps it was more about my competitive edge but either way, I'm not the same person I was when I started this website. My roots are a bit more exposed, my witness a bit more transparent and my words a bit more silent. It was a stripping down of hard work and everything loud.
This video clip hit a chord with me: a subtle shift from hope to resignation. The father's astute attention to the elusive details of his son sought what every father knows - he may not become what he dreamed. Age and circumstances, the basketball is put in the plastic bag with a gentle shake and we are swept into the delicate crumbling of a man or woman.
I walked beneath a lush, green canopy; it was an umbrella of color where sunlight stretches it's afternoon warmth into a soft hue of petals of golden kindled light. The illumination sat suspended in a filtered whisper of droplets. I smiled yieldingly as it's covering protected all that stood within it's shadow. It was there I was free to wander unapologetically through the security of It's power. Through photosynthesis, the dialog between sunlight, leaves and air had me trapped within a contrivance transformation of a sweet unfolding blossom. I walked.
Exposed and tirelessly tough through the elements of wind and rain, the gathering of cords on the surface of soil and dirt lay ponderously across a hardened floor. Just beneath the surface, however, an intricate ruffle of tiny threads of agility whose aggregate absorb water and nutrients as well as anchor the tree upright. Most of these roots, 12-18 inches, lie below our watch but reach upward toward the heavens where oxygen is abundant. Still, others whose stability is found in it's depth may have a main root whose far reaching grasp may be 15 feet beneath the surface resting in deep, dark soil under that which we cannot see.
A wooden rib of cars on a four-lane highway. These tissues act as a means of transportation. It is a race to the finish where it's very existence is dependent upon a turnpike road of efficiency. There are many cells on the road, from the deep rich color of dying tissue, those internal truths we carry, the heartwood provides strength, the youngest sapwood providing enthusiasm and the cambium or the dreams where a thin, tiny layer of growing tissue produces new cells each season. It is an umbrella of armor within a barked skin of vulnerability.
Stepping out and being raw and transparent before friends has left a bit of tarnished bark upon faithful floors. It is a challenge to grow - but not to hinder the growth of others. The truth about me is an aching not to hurt anyone or anything. We have these caterpillars everywhere I walk these days; they head toward the path of footsteps that will trample. I endeavor to rescue them from their earnest pursuits. They coil at the touch which makes it difficult for me to grasp - i grip a nearby leaf to scoot it upon dry, brittle foliage in order for me to walk it toward green pastures of safety. It is a passageway.
Another truth? That my hard, bark-ish exterior will insulate a single tree but some roots extend far beneath the soil toward other trees in order to be stronger and survive the heavy conditions of fire and rain. God designed us to need and support each other toward a foundation of everlasting threads. Heartwood the deep, dark sap that help to form the centrical lines in a single tree trunk. Some rings harvest a legacy of 1,000 years or more.
We live in a world of teflon intimacy where we are scared to let others see barren roots and flaws. In my immaturity, I believed if I didn't let people know where I fell short or how I was hurt in the past that somehow I was protecting them. It was a job I took seriously upon shoulders of a tiny, frail leaf. It was me showing guns of muscle in a display of foliage. Integrity, responsibility, compassion: these are the spokes of an umbrella.
Christ is a rib in a tool of covering. I need to know - those I love are safe within the shadow of my prayers.
God sketched a world that is alive and vibrant under the crown of faith. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not just ingredients for a good recipe but are the life-giving water in a world where eyes are closed to the majesty of his presence.
Somewhere deep within my soul is a tiny root that grew with the tender hands of a child's heart pressing soil snuggly and lovingly around it's stem. It is a seedling that produces good fruit. We often say in youth group, faith is not just difficult, it is impossible without the holy spirit to guide us. The church pews nestle beside the strong roots of trees whose splendor is seen in their obedience to do what is right and true and whose trunks stand tall under tempest turbulent skies of blue.
I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way - in all your speaking and in all your knowledge because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9
A layer of wood formed in a plant during a single period of growth. Growth rings are visible as concentric circles of varying width when a tree is cut crosswise. They represent layers of cells produced by vascular cambium.
I live in an area of California where the trees are dying. Dry and brittle like the leaves I use to lift up caterpillars, they are trampled or fall down in a deluge of water. I saw video footage yesterday of an entire firetruck toppling into a sink whole on a newly formed highway. I came home to one large tree lifted from it's dead roots lying on it's side barren and broken upon the surface of wet soil. The storms will come; we are promised that.
I escaped the foliage between roots and leaves in a small town in the hills. Fresh snow, I gathered myself in the morning light, just as the sun was rising. No people or vehicles, the trees were weighted with clumps of pillow-white mounds, their majesty was seen in their height, not as single trees but as a gathering of them reaching toward the height of heaven and I felt small. I stood still in the stillness, awe and majesty; I could almost taste the storybook sense of wonder. The sound was gloriously quiet as if a great orchestra was about to begin. Suspended - soft white flakes fell iridescently and gently toward roots that imagined themselves reaching upward.
It is day 2 under winters morning light. There are no longer clumps of white in trees as rain and sunlight have had their transforming way with them. It is a puddle of ice whose lines and circular markings catch my eye. It was brilliant in design! It is an articulation of transparency and vulnerability. One step and the ice is broken. I gather my thoughts against the ventricle circles of a tree.
With a dull window of clarity, I walk. A hot cup of tea around a narrow rim, i sip. Bundled beneath the warmth of layers, I place my clumsy snow boots into footprints much larger than my own walking toward the resting place of a gazebo with rays of warm sunlight. Worship music, prayer and God's word is woven into the ticking of the clock as I basque in the presence of holy ground. It is walking back that I notice smaller footsteps, a little boys boots beside his father - and I smile making my footsteps in snow. I smile because the most important part of the video is ... love. Even if the son doesn't become what he dreamed, the father embraces him with a love that is pure and true and the father smiles.
This month's post is about obedience. Yes, our dreams are important but not as important as the person God dreamed up when He thought of you. Without a doubt in my mind, my heart is filled with the truth that we are loved deeply and intimately by a God who knows our names. More often than not, I want my plans and my perspective but trees are made with the hope of strength and longevity to withstand the storms. If we are to be men and women of faith, then the wooden beams of a cross must matter.
The planting of a seedling immersed in the loving hands of a child whose sunlit faith is bright. Paul writes letters to people he cared about. By accident or design, you are here. I pray that you find a bit of Christ in these words. I pray that you are surrounded by people who will nourish and provide water for your soul ... and most importantly, I pray that those I love are better because they stand under the umbrella of an intercessor who prays on their behalf.
Crown: jewels rendering the things that matter
Roots: nourishment of God's word and his people
Trunk: the armor to protect invaders while we are in the process of becoming
This month marks a season of Lent. Out of the stillness of Winter, comes the anticipation of Spring. The discourse of our vocation is to furnish water and light upon bare and broken trees before it is too late. Infants are born with an abounding capacity to love but this world tramples and robs it's trees of the vital life-giving nutrients of endurance. If circumstances dictate an ability to preserve saplings into adulthood, then as mothers and fathers, we let go of our children not as the fulfillment of our own desires but a willingness for them to reach others for the gospel of Christ.
Our faith is not found in the security of our circumstances but out of the pain, we find hope. In the video, a father sees his son's reaction to a dream being trampled ever so slightly.
The secret of the gospel is found in it's simplicity. Courage is found in humility. Jesus was an example of God noticing trees, in the barren, broken roots far beneath the surface. In our own preservation, we cover up the roots so as not to become vulnerable to perpetrators that kill trees. Far beneath the surface, however, are roots gravitating toward other roots in order to survive. The crown, where the leaves and fruit are the result of roots being properly nourished, provide oxygen and shade. The cells within the trunk are a highway of communication, both vertically and horizontally, as a promise of eternity.
Our strength is found in the vertical and horizontal beams of a wooden cross whose nails are pierced through the roots of humanity; the sap was red and oozing. As women and men of faith, we stand in the vulnerability of barren and broken roots in order to notice other trees. Because for us, followers of Christ, the story did not end at the cross but in the three day journey and resurrection of Jesus on the third day where he again walked, talked and had fellowship with those he loved.
We begin with a simple truth: we are forgiven and loved - deeply. God sent his one and only son, Jesus, as an atonement for our sins and if we confess our vulnerability that we need him, then through the Father, Son and Holy spirit, we will be nourished to withstand the drought and rain.
We surrender the pursuit of our dreams in a journey to become who God dreamed. Therefore, it is a journey of becoming. We are in a season of Lent because we grasp, cling and reach ... for Easter. The growth rings stand as our marks of the cross. We love because He first loved us. 1John 4:19
May Winter make way to:
green fields of faith,
four-leaf clovers of hope,
and sunlight of golden love.
In His love,
Pictures provided by Fotolia
Videos linked from YouTube
Information found on Wikipedia
The parts of a tree are found: https://www.ncforestry.org/teachers/parts-of-a-tree/
A child's armor is found: http://www.dltk-bible.com/cv/armor_of_god.htm
Video 1: From the movie, Pursuit of Happyness is a 2006 autobiographical drama
Video 2: From YouTube is by Minds Eye Design
Scripture: From Life Application bible
Stories are my own, copyright 2017
A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. John Steinbeck, Jr
The fog was thick and heavy; it was as if tears welled up within the clouds of heaven. My eyes could not see where I was going but droplets of water falling on windowed glass precipitated thought - one that refused to escape. It was a journey - it was a hope. Like sticks tied together with string, what began as a tiny collection of judgements were pounded into dust. It wasn't a surge of water really but rather a convolution of time and space and through the process, there was a change.
As a little girl, I went to my father's house where the atmosphere was one of turmoil. He was one of six children where the youngest was younger than me and ranged in ages up to my father, who was only in his twenties himself. We shared the same birth order as eldest of the family but here the distinction was blurred. Six siblings in his, three in ours as well as a myriad of others left the explosion of sound echoing through chamber doors. Yelling over a Sunday football game, or a free-for-all of food out of bags and tubs, dogs and cats coming and going, kids and sports and adults with cigarettes and cans of beer - it was a discord of sight and scent.
There was an upright piano that stood against the entry wall with a metronome on top along with figurines of the heads of Bach, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. I wondered who these Presidents were at first but was embarrassed to learn they were not leaders in democracy but composers of musical masterpieces. My aunt who was only a few years older was a natural leader and held the magic key into a language I wished I knew. Her presence at the piano seemed a juxtaposition to the sound around us. Large vintage pages with script and notes, it was a map into the Knights of the Roundtable and a world of imagination with the ticking of the metronome bringing order out of chaos.
Inevitably my grandmother, with a quick wit and great sense of fun, would enter the room with a gayety of spirit asking her daughter to play the piano and for me to sing the only song I knew: Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head and I held the stage for a moment to the applause of possibility - not that I could sing, dance or play but that I could be the the center of a great story.
There were no lines drawn between God and everyday life. It was intertwined as the underlying melody to an ongoing conversation. There were pictures of Jesus and crosses and an exchange about the church. My Grandmother's sister was a Catholic nun in the Bronx of New York and taking her religious vows at only sixteen years of age, held an esteemed position in her sister's eyes. I was both intrigued and drawn toward faith - always. The devout obedience and holiness of one sister who lived her entire days into old age under the care of the convent and the other sister who always seemed to be surrounded by discord but was just as devout. I was in a circle about Jesus but somehow missed the message of the gospel.
Of Irish decent, this grandmother was a natural story teller with a vivid imagination and a deep, abiding trust. There was something else too ...
Literature, film and God. I love February, not because of the commercial expectation of cupid's arrow but because every February, it begins with the best of the best in football, ends with the best of the best in movies but sandwiched between the two, is the best of the best in God's love.
February - the Academy of Motion Pictures honors the talents of men and women who create an image that moves us. It begins with ordinary folks and an inspiration to write and a belief that they have a story worth telling. It is in the daringness to dream big alongside creativity, production, money and luck.
This past month, I decided to take a detour off highway 101 in California through the Salinas Valley and go to the John Steinbeck, Jr museum. Coincidentally, his birthday is this month - February 27th, 1902. It seemed a perfect month to wander through exhibits, pictures and stories about his life. Through the inspiration of his sisters, his childhood memories written on plagues, his friendships, three marriages, pictures, movie clips, the tales of economic woes and successes, the audience is led on a journey.
John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr was an American author of 27 books. His literary works include, Tortilla Flat, Cannery Row, East of Eden, Of Mice and Men, The Red Pony, and Pulitzer prize winning, Grapes of Wrath. Interestingly, for many years I have traveled that stretch of highway but have never taken the time to stop. Years ago, I put into memory the brevity of his writing style. It was a tiny museum with movie clips playing in the background. Gleaning for a clue into his inspiration, an ordinary green truck with a white camper shell had the crisp, script lettering of the name: Rocinante, Don Quixote's horse and I was inspired.
The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true. John Steinbeck, Jr.
Like leaves, no two are alike and the story is struck with the hands of an old vintage typewriter with ink strokes on vellum paper. At eighteen, something had been taken from me and as a result a tiny seed of judgement was secretly buried beneath a pile of impressions. Yes, my honorary grandparents of faith had sprinkled droplets of water through a rolled-up sleeve of involvement and a dance-card dialog of example but it wasn't enough on it's own to change my perceptions.
Living on my own at nineteen and into my twenties, the Santa Barbara Mission bells not only rang out over the Pacific Ocean but rang out in the silence of my heart. Time had been erased and the childhood whispered prayers were answered in ways I didn't anticipate.
After months of asking, I finally accepted the invitation some ten years later to a Christian Women's luncheon. I had recently sought the counsel of an Episcopal priest who sacrificially suggested I attend another church where there was an abundance of other young mothers. With two young children, I agreed to an afternoon out and sat with 60+ women at round tables of food and conversation. It felt decidedly different than anything I had attended. Prayers spoken out loud, faith talked about casually, references to chapters in the bible. At the conclusion, there was a message about Jesus. I was too embarrassed to be singled out by raising my hand. I didn't want to be noticed, but in the secret of my heart, prayed ... "if you are real, leave just one brochure at the table."
When I opened my eyes, at least 100 brochures were before me. Coincidence, no doubt but it began a different conversation and the opening of a door and the commencing of a journey.
Men do change, and change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass. J Steinbeck
The movies nominated this year for best picture: Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, LaLa Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight are rarely the feel good notes the audience is longing for but rather something that pricks our intellect to see life, people and stories with a different lens. Through sometimes heartbreaking struggle, the patrons are moved, hopefully toward action - a change in themselves.
There is a plethora of discussion around the movies, the industry and the collaborative voices standing divided. There is no doubt, there will be a platform for political commentary which will also be editorialized but stripping away to a single note, I commend the courage and creativity of men and women who began with an idea in their heads and moved it into a medium in which the audience may peer through a window of their imaginative souls. I was recently coined: loyal, driven, dreamer - and upon hearing it, smiled with affirmation because after standing beside a piano in a solo voice about water so many years ago, I gave up the dreamer part of me in a stack of moments when I made judgements about people.
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
Psalm 27 of David
The fog was thick and heavy; it was as if a sponge soaked in anointed oil was soothing my very breathe. I sat alone albeit the worship of the Lord. The Eucalyptus steam was hot; the water-moistened air was abundant. So dense and ponderous was the atmosphere that I could scarcely see my hands inches before my face. As I hummed softly staring up at otherwise would be a ceiling, I drew a deep breathe in - the ointment in the air compressed my lungs as I breathed acutely imagining the goodness of God and exhaling all else.
Change has taken place slowly. What once was on the right is now on the left. We are brought into a window of conversation, ideas and thought to be processed individually, and spun out as something new and decidedly better. A pile of judgements pounded into the trace of a new trail.
Several months ago, a couple of things happened related to finances and exercise but both of which was bathed in prayer. For the first time in my life, I am attempting to live fiscally differently and couldn't afford a gym but in a moment of collective answer, was offered up accountability and a facility (a home gym) as a solution. It is the perfect analogy for this month's post.
In the early morning hours, on some days, I leave my house in a darkened fog where just a hint of sunlight guides my way. Half asleep, I gather myself into some work-out clothes, water and a jeep trail up a narrow road to a large locked gate. I enter the code and wait for the copious doors to open. Learning a complicated dance-exercise routine, I muster up intellect and body into the hope of longevity. I exchange sweat for a cleaned up version of me and exit the same grand doors with a pause - a beautiful view - then head to work.
A good book, movie or experience, we hope to be changed for the better for having read, watched or experienced it. Never would I have imagined my life to be rich with the relationships of my father, his brothers, his sons ... and others with which I have yet to spend days. I would have missed the gifts had I not taken chances. I took the above time-lapse on my phone while I worked out - the sun was rising. I have also moved to the other side of the sidewalk hoping to live more freely in the footsteps of others and allowing God to not only pound my large piles of impressions into the dusty trails of a jeep trace but handing over the keys of my future as no longer clenching the tight-fisted pronouncement of inescapable poverty into provision. Why? Because I long to be in the presence of God all the days of my life.
I know what it is like to be alone, lonely or waiting for the mountain-top faith but I have also felt the abundance of His presence alongside the collaboration of people singing the same song of faith and like the cleansing atmosphere of Eucalyptus is changed from the inside out into faith, hope and love. The single keys played on a piano are brought into a masterpiece of sound through a great composer.
I once sat as an Elder for a three year term. At the time, there was a random conversation and a pledge to rescue large pewter pipes for a church organ that sat abandoned in an ol' storage facility. Forgotten and rusty without use, we voted to spend funds for what would someday be an organ in a new sanctuary. Vintage and old, the cleaned up version of the once forgotten pipes stood in elegance as I sat alone in church last week on an ordinary Wednesday. Sunlight was filtering in through angled colored glass casting hews of radiance upon carpeted floors. I imagined the singing of voices in collaboration with sound from the rescued pipes amid the powerful prayers whispered through the years of echoed cathedral doors through the generations of men and women contained not in buildings but in the beating of hearts.
Isn't that what faith is all about? Christ in you meeting Christ in me in a song but only sung through the metronome of nails on wood. My hope is you will give faith a chance. Open the scriptures, invite the holy spirit to illuminate the message of hope. I pray the maker of Heaven and Earth meets you in a simple note. I am just human - pointing you to Jesus and that is what I missed so many years ago standing and singing as my grandmother and her sister represented just another generation of women on their knees in prayer and laughter and in the company of a great composer passing the baton to the next broken and weak vestibule of clay.
May you forever be inspired ... through books, movies and ideas but most importantly,
through people, experiences and faith. gratefulBlessings to you - my friends. Amen
I began this month with an image of a pile of cinnamon sticks. At the same time, I found this short video which I didn't use in the post but am including it as reference. I was struck by the number of people and time it took to harvest a crop that has been around for centuries. Imagine the intricacy of us? Thank you, Lord for surrounding us with people and experiences that change us for the better.
Pictures were provided by myself or Fotolia.
Song clip 1: Harry Connick, Jr, Ava Maria
Song clip 2: Beck, Cycle on Morning Phase Album
Hillsong Worship, One Thing on Saviour King Album
Song clip 3: Andrea Bocelli and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Lord's Prayer
Reference found on Wikipedia, Cinnamon video on YouTube
Stories are my own and copy-written 2017
A person who searches for depth and beauty in the simple things.