Choosing to gulp, not sip

I stood transfixed on the lanai, watching a river otter cavort on the opposite bank of the small pond behind my rented condo. It rolled on its back in the grass, stood up, then threw itself down and rolled some more before finally slinking back into the water and swimming away.

Now I don’t know if otters feel joy; I kind of doubt it. For all I know, its back was itching and that’s how otters scratch. But that creature was so playful and unguarded, so totally in the moment, I couldn’t help but smile.

32 Curious DolphinI’ve felt the same pleasure watching dolphins frolic alongside a boat or kayak. They leap out of the water with those ubiquitous grins and seem for all the world to be truly enjoying themselves. Are they? I don’t know, but something about them makes my spirit soar.  Continue reading

People are starving – and not for food

I’ve been told I must have “talk to me” tattooed on my forehead in a type of ink easily visible to the lonely. It must be true because apparently Karen (not her real name) could read it.

IMG_3126It was only about a ten minute ride on the water taxi from the marina to the beach, but that was long enough. By the time we got off the pontoon boat, I knew Karen’s entire story: Where she’s lived for all 41 years of her marriage, how much she paid for her last three houses, the nature of her latest ailment, what she and her husband disagree about, the names and ages of each of her grandchildren, and … well, you get my drift. Me, a complete stranger.

The next day I went to an outdoor art festival with two friends. As I browsed the jewelry booth, a nearby shopper found earrings to match the necklace she was admiring. To my casual comment, “Must be your lucky day!”, she blurted out that she could use some good luck; her husband had died unexpectedly last week of a massive heart attack. She said she had come to the art festival hoping for a distraction from her crushing grief. Stunned, I touched her arm as I told her how sorry I was, my voice cracking. Again, I was a complete stranger.  Continue reading

That Day Worrying Finally Paid Off

I was at breakfast with a friend this past weekend who was fretting about her daughter. Her adult, intelligent, capable daughter. My friend was worried about a project her daughter was planning to take on the next day and the potential complications that could arise. The fact that she had no involvement or control over the outcome herself didn’t stop her from being genuinely concerned.

Only half-kidding, I said, “Well, it’s good you’re worrying about it because one of these days that’s going to pay off for you.”

We both laughed at the absurdity of such a statement; who really thinks worrying is anything other than a complete waste of time?

IMG_2498I’m one to talk. I recently drove 23 hours to spend two months in Florida. Balmy, snow-free, palm-trees-gently-swaying-in-the-breeze Florida.

The night I arrived, you know what I did? Continue reading

Please Don’t Kick the Sheepdog – a reminder

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe are a law enforcement family. My great-grandfather, George L. Bryant, was a small-town sheriff who died in the line of duty in 1908 and whose name is emblazoned on the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial in Washington, DC. My older brother, my husband, and I are all retired “sheepdogs”. My sister-in-law spent her career as a police dispatcher and my younger sister began her working life as a member of this same tight-knit law enforcement community.

Perhaps you will understand, then, why this divisive climate in our country right now between the protectors and the protected deeply troubles me.  

For that reason, instead of posting something pensive and timely about Christmas today, I’ve decided to revisit a post I originally published in April 2013 after the Boston Marathon bombings.

The following perspective is taken from a book by Lt. Col. (Retired) Dave Grossman, Ranger, Ph.D., and author of On Killing; the Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill. Some of the statistics may bear updating but the sentiment remains valid. I hope it’s helpful: Continue reading

This Can Never Be Said About You

 

thumbs downNothing beats the Bible when it comes to flawed and unlikely characters. Some were real oddballs; others had disadvantages that weren’t their fault. Here are just a few you’ll find throughout the Old and New Testaments (you can click on any name to read more of their story):

Polygamists – King Solomon  was said to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines; many other Biblical patriarchs were also polygamists;

Criminals - The apostle Paul (known then as Saul) persecuted and imprisoned Christians prior to his conversion;  Zacchaeus was a notorious tax collector who cheated his own people; Moses  and King David  were both murderers;

CowardsGideon’s faith was so weak he repeatedly demanded God give him a sign before he would obey (and then he obeyed at night so no one would see him); Peter  blatantly and repeatedly denied knowing Christ; Continue reading

All that’s left for us to do is this

 

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When life is complicated –

and it is…

When people are hurting -

and they are…

When questions overwhelm -

and they do…

All that’s left for us to do is this: GIVE THANKS.

I’ll admit, it seems counter-intuitive, this expressing of gratitude when all seems lost and we are tempted to despair over the state of our world and our own small lives.

Yes, things are a mess.

But to collapse in a heap would mean missing the everyday miracles God is performing all around us, the hopeful evidence that He has not left our sides, no matter how grim things appear. Choosing to give thanks calls to mind the ways that indeed, He is crafting our redemption and is worthy of all honor.

I find the following simple prayer of Scottish author William Barclay to be prescriptive and healing for “such a time as this”, a gentle reminder of how blessed we are in this one aspect: that we love and are loved.

I give you thanks, O God, for those who mean so much to me —

Those to whom I can go at any time.

Those with whom I can talk and keep nothing back,

knowing that they will not laugh at my dreams or

my failures.

Those in whose presence it is easier to be good.

Those who by their warning have held me back from

mistakes I might have made.

Above all, I thank you for Jesus Christ, Lord of my heart

and Savior of my soul, in whose Name I offer this

thanksgiving.

With each line of this prayer, a face (sometimes more than one) comes to mind: someone who has been a gift to me in exactly the way described.

Even as I acknowledge there is much that needs to be healed – in me and in the world around me – I am overwhelmed by the generosity of God toward me through His gift of community . . . and ultimately, through the gift of His Son.

May you, too, be made aware of the immeasurable blessings you’ve been given and be moved to genuine gratitude this Thanksgiving.

~~~~~~~~~~

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He’d probably be surprised that I still remember this

My dad was behind his desk hard at work when I walked into his office that day after junior high. At the sound of my voice his face softened into a smile and he looked up.

The order of that was especially meaningful to me:

He smiled.

And then he looked up.

To my young heart, that said he had welcomed me even before he made eye contact with me.  In that moment, I felt secure and valued by my dad; I knew he was glad to receive me and was interested to hear whatever I had to say. All these years later, I can still see his reaction in my mind and feel the love in that gesture. (He probably wouldn’t think there was anything remarkable about it; that was just his way.)

This morning that memory flooded back to me when I read this verse in the Psalms:

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Continue reading

I Don’t Remember Saying This

As I rounded the corner last week, I happened upon my neighbor unloading groceries in her driveway. We engaged in some idle chat and for whatever reason, she reminded me of something I had said to her when she was diagnosed with cancer ten or so years ago.

The day I heard of her health struggles, I stopped by to deliver a meal to her family on my way home from work. She specifically recalls me reassuring her during that visit that, “Everything will be okay.”

IMG_5786I said that? What in the world was I thinking? That was kind of a happy-clappy thing to say. Looking back, it seems downright presumptuous.

Thankfully, my friend derived comfort from my words then and apparently still values them today.

And I don’t even remember saying it.

By God’s mercy, everything did turn out okay. There was surgery, chemo, and all the miserable stuff that goes along with it, but she eventually went into remission and continues to live her life with contagious joy.

I started thinking: That forgotten comment at least had a happy ending. How many other things have I said along the way that didn’t have such a positive result?    

~~~~~~~~~

I thought of another instance, a few years earlier, when my words had a much less desirable outcome. In this case, I remember what I said, it’s just that at the time I failed to consider how it would be taken in by a very tender heart. Continue reading

It Will Not Be Enough

IMG_5491Exactly one week from today, I will wake up at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, having hiked down a steep 8 miles or so the day before. I did this hike two years ago but I expect to be surprised and delighted in new ways this time around.

I already know:

  • I’ll be stiff from what amounts to a controlled fall down craggy South Kaibab and ever-so-thankful for the right gear and the months of training.
  • I’ll be grateful for the rich companionship of my fellow hikers that is unique to an experience like this.
  • I’ll be impressed as always by the untamed wildness and inherent danger of this beautiful place.
  • I’ll be stunned anew by nature’s multiple mood swings, often visible all at once across the sweeping panorama.
  • I’ll be reminded of my own smallness and comparative insignificance amid such enormity.
  • And I’ll be inspired to private worship and whispered prayers of gratitude.

And I also know this: None of it will be enough. Continue reading

Revisiting the Dog-Eared Days

When I was in school, we weren’t allowed to fold down the corners of any pages in the textbooks we were assigned or mark them up in any way.

Folding the page corners gave the book permanent creases, we were told, and made it look tattered, even abused. Since the school had to make them last, our teachers sternly warned against careless or rough treatment.

Just to be sure we complied, our names were recorded next to some identifying number for these particular books and we were warned we’d have to pay for any damage – other than “normal wear and tear” – if we defaced them. The same applied to library books.

So at the beginning of each school year, my sister and I could be found cross-legged on the family room floor, dutifully fashioning protective covers for those textbooks out of paper grocery bags.

Truthfully, I always liked getting a book that already had a little mileage on it. It told me that someone before me had found parts of it useful and suggested perhaps I would, too. At a minimum, it told me I could probably use the book without freaking out if I dropped it or spilled something on it.

IMG_5431These days, if I feel like dog-earing one of my books, I do it freely (I know, that’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to some – don’t judge). I fold the page corners to help me find the passages I want to return to, even if it means the book now has flaws that would disqualify it from being resold. The places I’ve marked lead me back to what strikes me as memorable.

Frankly, if the book is interesting enough for me to want to refer back to it, I’m not likely to want to part with it anyway. If I’ve borrowed someone else’s book, I’ve been known to return it and then buy my own copy just so I can crease and highlight to my heart’s content.  Continue reading

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