Would you like it "gift wrapped"?
I recently bought a friend of mine a candle for her birthday… the packaging was beautiful but I especially loved the words, "a sensual floral bouquet with mild aphrodisiac properties that will captivate the senses and enhance intimate conversation". Wow- who knew a candle could do all of that?
Our culture is fixed on packaging and the timing of it. We have been raised to believe the "big events" are the most important and sometimes miss the unexpected quiet ones in our haste. Living life in this accelerated pace, waiting for the next big event, sets up the possibility that our expectations surpass reality. We sabotage the gifts that await us if we don't slow down and take the time to unwrap the moment.
First of all, I love "Bean". In his illustration above, I love that each layer of the wrapping covers and enhances the gift. If we live life in reverse and begin to appreciate each layer and peel it away slowly, it allows us to engage each of our senses… the aroma of the moment.
In the spring of my sixth grade year in elementary school, I was one student in 3-4 classes that was suppose to go to "Science Camp". From Sept-March, the curriculum built toward the culmination of science camp. I was not academic so I mostly looked at it from a social experience. Who would I room with, what relationships would develop? I was not entirely prepared when at the last moment, I was among a handful of 8-10 kids that would not be going to science camp. My parents couldn't afford the trip (scholarships were not popular in the 1970's) or maybe my parents "feared" me leaving home. Whichever was true, the reality was still the same. Gina was on the list of students not going.
Not going to Science camp did not give you a "hall pass" from school. Each of us still had to go to school and I remember that first day's walk to school was the hardest. I certainly did not need one more reason to be "singled" out in a group of "misfits" but the road that day was a tough one. The other sixth graders would be absent from school a full week. Academics were always difficult for me so the prospect of a world of worksheets and difficult reading assignments made the daunting task ahead a worrisome one- or so my expectation seemed.
Close to forty years later, time, experience and God's hand of grace that week and again years later have caused that one week of missing science camp to be among my best memories. God sees us from the inside out, years ahead and in a place of possibility.
On that very first mornings walk to school and just outside the door was an abandoned kitten. Hungry, tired, wet and cold, he waited for our hands to rescue him. I was the first to see him and brought him into class. The teacher was not anyone I remember now but I do remember she allowed us to nurture and take care of that kitten everyday that week. We carefully made a bed out of a box and supplied it with bedding from some forgotten clothing. We made a water dish out of a top from a jar and someone brought some dry cat food from home. We were rescuing that kitten but in reality that kitten was rescuing us.
The kitten wasn't allowed to stay with us the following week when the rest of the kids came back, but he gave us something to talk about that was uniquely "our experience". I wish I could thank the generosity of that teacher for "bending the rules" and living outside the box of acceptable behavior because in it, she demonstrated God's hands of grace.
Astounding to me but years later I was reminded of that experience of science camp. I was a wife, mother to three children, employee and a volunteer youth worker at my church. The opportunity of a 3 day missions trip arose and having never been on one, I thought it might be fun. I wanted to go. Clearly and quickly I discovered it was not going to work that time. Ryan, the son of one of my good friends came running down the street to our house to let us know his cat had just had kittens and could we all come see.
A third try and two months later, I went on my first mission's trip with our church and YWAM to Ensenada, Mexico for 10 days where we built a home. No- no cats or kittens that I remember on this trip. I know, however, every person walked away from that trip with a different take and a perspective all their own but for me God's hand of grace was the redemption of time I had always longed for. He covered me with a love equivalent to the love we showed to that abandoned kitten from sixth grade science camp. Where we "thought" we were rescuing a lost and abandoned kitten, he was really rescuing us. Similarly, where I thought I was helping to chaperone high school students and build a home for a family in need, it was really God using people and the experience to build something in me.
I remember a sermon that talked about a person going to heaven surrounded by unopened gifts. When asked about the gifts, God answered her by saying the gifts were ones He had intended her to open on earth but she never took the time to open them. I challenge you to "slow down" and appreciate the moment. Be intentional about your days and invite yourself to invest in other people's lives, not just the ones you are meant to… like your family but the ones you come across in your life, in school, at work, in the world you sit. You may be surprised by the "unexpected gifts".
When I thought of writing this blog post, I thought of my grandmother "Nana" which is why i chose the music that follows. You see- if each of us has eyes to see and a heart to accept, we can see unique people and experiences all our own. Yes- life for me as a kid (in my own expectation) wasn't that easy or maybe it was my overly sensitive personality but either way, I had people that pointed the way to "possibility" in my life. For me, one of those people was Nana.
Spending time at her house was a "safe" post and place to rest my head. Familiar and loving, her home brought a quiet and predictable peace. I can still "smell" and imagine her home when I close my eyes and be there for the moment.
I have many memories of swinging on the porch swing or swimming in their pool while listening to Boz Skaggs on the outdoor speakers papa had wired.
As I searched for information about Boz Scaggs, I quickly saw the relationship he had with Steve Miller, another popular and influential '70's artist, and classmates in school. The thing that jumped out to me, however, was a simple act of friendship. I read that Steve's mother was a "non-professional jazz-influenced singer" and his dad was a physician who was also an amateur recording engineer. Together they invited friends like Les Paul (renowned for his namesake iconic guitar) regularly to their home. Friends encouraged Steve at an early age and those experiences helped to shape his career as a musician. How often does that happen to us? Are we too tired, shy or busy to take the time to build friendships? or do we take the time to invest? The small thing like inviting people into our homes and sharing hobbies such as music seem so innocuous and minor at the time yet they can have lasting affects on the bystanders, creating those little unexpected gifts in our lives.
Info found in Discogs & Wikipedia
Why sandwiched between my last post and the one still in my head? Robert Redford, in his early years enjoyed performing in live theatre. Barefoot in the Park had opened in October, 1963; he was playing the character, Paul Bratter when Kennedy was assassinated. The theatre went dark the next day but the following day he was reluctant to perform; "how can we perform" at a time such as this? Live Theatre created a two-way experience and he knew instinctively following the death of Kennedy that they HAD to perform. He could feel a difference in that first and subsequent performances. "The tone of the laughter" had changed. It had become louder, harsher, a bit more violent. It was as though "an innocence had forever been lost". A nation had changed. The laughter had changed. He had changed.
Leonard Maltin, film critic and author did a superb job interviewing Redford who normally stays out of the spotlight for accolades of his work. Redford, age 78 is nominated this year for his work in "All is Lost" and his other movies, "The Candidate", "The Sting", "The Way We Were", "The Great Gatsby", "All the President's Men", "The Natural", "Out of Africa", "Indecent Proposal" sit alongside a long list of movie greats. His only "Oscar" was for his directorial debut, "Ordinary People" released in 1980.
Although shy, Redford is a story teller and I appreciated the freedom in which he spoke. Always giving credit to friends and colleagues he made along the way, the love of his work, his curiosity in the human spirit and humility were the tunes that played the loudest last night. In an industry that craves the attention of others, Redford's humility was refreshing and endearing.
This website is not about movies in the sense of being a movie review but one that discovers depth and character in people. Redford's humble beginnings in Southern California clearly had an impact on him. The subtle context of racial and economic inequality in the neighborhood he grew up in, his passion and desire to be an artist at an early age, the journey of walking through open doors of opportunity through stage, television and movies were all layers to his story. The political climate in which he lived like the assassination of President Kennedy had an impact on him. With each of these events, his curiosity grew. The people and experiences along his road shaped the stories he told.
I have a wooden sign in my house that reads, "home is where your story begins". I love the idea behind this quote. It's meaning conjures a sense of motion and in part, a sense of choice. Your story is interesting because no two stories are a like. People, events and experiences continue to sketch and color your story which ultimately shape those around you. Will you take the time to tell yours?
This website is about discovering the timbre or the sound of one person compared to that of another without a sound being sung. It is about faith. It is about choice. It is about a story. It is about connection.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than
he ought think but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has
assigned. Romans 12:3
My faith has continued to be a path of discovery and curiosity. At one time, I believed it was enough to be a good person with a positive moral compass. As I have grown closer to the heartbeat of Jesus, however, I continue to discover something greater. Each of us are connected through our stories. We need to do less talking and convincing of our own opinions and more listening to the hearts of people. It is their life experiences, the people and events that have shaped them into the people they have become where the thread of communication begins. It is one tiny and very delicate thread that begins to connect us. That tiny, transparent thread gently reaches someone else, which ever so slightly weaves into the next thread until after minutes, days, hours and years connects to others. Too many times, that first little thread is broken but sometimes, those threads are allowed to stay and if we stand back discover the magnificent wonder of a web.
Robert Redford was in another movie, "Charlotte's Web". His voice was that of the horse who see's Charlotte and faints. Although Redford was quick to acknowledge all of his acting experiences as positive, he had the least to say about this as he preferred the experience of acting with other people. This provides the perfect ending to this post. It is both ironic and magical at the same time. The story of Charlotte's Web is about a spider web. It is about Charlotte's individual and continual work at building a web. The pig, Wilbur, stands back and admires the work of his friend, Charlotte. He ponders and agonizes over the meaning of his own life in comparison to hers. Each step in his journey is one of curiosity. What he hasn't realized is the subtlety of the web that had been building in his own life. In the final chapter, Charlotte finally has the word that captures her friend Wilbur, it is "humble". “Why did you do all this for me?' he asked. 'I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you.' 'You have been my friend,' replied Charlotte. 'That in itself is a tremendous thing.” ― E.B. White, Charlotte's Web
We were not intended to be the solo voice in a performance but an interactive stage where each actor brings to the screen his/her interpretation of the story. The tone of the laughter may change but it is what connects us to the web; that web is life.
President's Day weekend is almost here. We honor two of our Presidents, our 1st- George Washington and our 16th, Abraham Lincoln. However, when I thought about the post for February, I gravitated toward our 35th President of the United States, John F Kennedy.
I was born in the middle of John F Kennedy's short 2 1/2 year presidency. It was a day where people remember the precise moment they heard the news of his assassination. The day was November 22, 1963. In my lifetime, there are two days such as that: 1) the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 and 2) the terrorist attacks of 911 on September 11, 2001.
People remember where they were and what they were doing on November 22, 1963. It was the shots that rang out in Texas and ultimately across a nation that ended the life of John F Kennedy. I was born on November 27, 1962; I was almost a year old. There are scholars who have dedicated their entire lives to his life, presidency, legacy and assassination; I am not a scholar and the mere mention of his name in a post leaves me with a humble responsibility to handle the subject with respect and gratitude.
There are four reasons the 35th President was the topic for this post: 1) my mother's side of the family had a profound respect and awe for the President; they cried along with a nation at his death, 2) within the last year, listening to a book on tape, two things stood out for me- the heroism he performed in WWII, 1943 and the "Camelot" atmosphere created during his Presidency, 3) Pictures from a book, "JFK Remembered, An intimate Portrait by His Personal Photographer" by Jacques Lowe and 4) a picture of he and my aunt taken in Lake Tahoe in the 1950's.
The last couple of years I have scanned old pictures from my grandfather (Papa's) collection into an external hard drive in order to preserve them in books for relatives. The next book I am working on is his pictures from WWII. Papa was a WWII survivor who was present at the bombing of Pearl Harbor. When I listened to the book on tape about John F Kennedy, his involvement in WWII struck a chord. Perhaps it was scanning the old pictures but I found myself learning something new. Kennedy was aboard a Patrol Torpedo boat PT-109 when it was struck and later sunk. Because Kennedy was on the Harvard College swim team, his skills proved critical in saving the lives of crew members and surviving days before his rescue.
This part of the book drew me in on a human level as I imaged Kennedy as a son and colleague to his shipmates. The next human element that drew me in was Kennedy's marriage. The "Camelot" image was in conflict with reality. Like the above story in pictures from 1963, the context of the day is important. "Camelot" from King Arthur's court was a popular musical on broadway in the early 1960's. I read that one of Kennedy's college friends at Harvard wrote one of the songs and both he and Jacqueline enjoyed listening to it each evening before they went to bed. The Kennedy administration optimized that imaginary world, in part, by an interview by Jacqueline herself paralleling her husband with the characters from Camelot.
Coming from a backdrop of racial inequalities, our involvement in the Vietnam War, the history of WWII, economic and worldwide tensions, John F Kennedy came at just the right time. His youth, wealth, athleticism and the beautiful, famous people that surrounded him offered a contrast to the realities of the day. People needed an image of hope and Kennedy provided it.
As I turned each page of "JFK Remembered-an intimate portrait by His personal photographer" I was struck with just how human he was. The family pictures were not that unlike most families. Loving parents who hoped for the best for their children. Holidays and time spent with loved ones. A profound friendship with his younger brother, Robert Kennedy who would also be assassinated only 5 1/2 years later. The pictures in this book, however, showed a young family with all of the hope of a bright and promising future. I valued the vulnerability these pictures showed.
Papa didn't talk about the war much but in the final years of his life, he told me about standing on the ammunition ship as a Japanese plane was flying by; he made eye contact with the bomber-a site he will never forget nor did he forget the friends and fellow Navy comrades he lost that day.
"The pictures of 1963" began with a picture of the Rev Martin Luther King, Jr- Pastor and Civil Rights leader who would be assassinated in 1968. I was six. This is the world I was born into. King talked about a dream of equality and pointed to a savior of salvation.
Although the stories and contexts are different today, the same record plays- that is one of sin. We are a fallen people with very human flaws. Very few of us will be able to shine a bright light onto political issues as a president will but each of us can shine a small light in our communities and within our families and the environment around us. Yes- we are human but we can extend grace to others as it has been given to us. Will you be the change people see?
A person who searches for depth and beauty in the simple things.