Category Archives: Uncategorized

Shouldn’t Tears Come with a Gift Receipt?

When I was a teenager, my older brother brought his lovely, poised new girlfriend home to meet us. He introduced me by saying, “And this is Diane; she can cloud up and rain at a Hallmark commercial.”

Dear God. It was – and still is – true. And it remains something about me I would change in a heartbeat if I could.

In Christian circles we are fond of saying, “tears are a gift from God”. The idea is that the ability to feel deeply and express ourselves openly is something God values and has given us out of His abundance. Someone will usually quote John 11:35: “Jesus wept”.

Scott Robinson via Creative Commons

I appreciate gifts, I really do. But this is one I would love to exchange.

No offense, God, but even at this late date maybe I could switch it out for something like a more robust and uninhibited sense of humor; perhaps a penchant for effortless hospitality; or maybe a slightly longer fuse when things don’t go my way? Heck, I’d be happy if I could just multitask a little better.

Understand, I chose a career in law enforcement. Continue reading Shouldn’t Tears Come with a Gift Receipt?

Everyday Miracles and the “Skinny” on Walt

everystockphoto.com (Public Domain)

I’ll be the first to admit, I have no idea about Walt Whitman’s faith, whether he was a Christian or not.  For all I know he may have been a pantheist, a Universalist, a Buddhist.  He died 120 years ago, so it would be pretty hard to have a conversation with him about it now.

I do hope I meet him in Heaven someday so I can talk to him about his poetry and his process.  I would enjoy gaining some insight into what it’s like to see through his eyes and hear how he crafted his thoughts into such classics.

That said, when I read his poem “Miracles” through my faith grid and spiritual experience, it’s hard for me not to believe that he had some sort of relationship with the Divine.  I read his lovely words about the miracles found in the common and the extraordinary, about the beauty to be found in the streets as well as the fields, and I am inspired to worship.

Somehow, I think that’s what Walt was doing.

Here is his poem, see what you think:

 Miracles

By Walt Whitman

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet
and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–the
ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

If you’re living a “workaround” life like I am (and who among us isn’t, on some level?), recognizing the everyday miracles may often be just what you need to get you through.  For me, they include a sweet friend writing me an email at just the right time to tell me what she appreciates about me; the return of green to the grass after a brutal summer drought; the giant chocolate Lab catching my eye from across the room and thumping his tail in greeting; the discovery of shared faith in the unlikeliest of places.

Will you share one or more of your everyday miracles in the comments below?

The Thing About Hands

“I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Isaiah 49:15b-16a

I can relate to hands, can’t you?  Strong ones, gnarled ones, huge, tiny, soft, capable, calloused, grimy – they come in all varieties.

I have my mother’s hands:  the length of my fingers, the shape of my nails, the skin that is starting to thin.  I notice the similarities more and more as I get older, because it’s her older hands that I recall most clearly.  I find I even fidget with my hands the way she once did, repositioning my rings with my thumb and pinky finger, stiffening and thrumming my fingers when I’m tense.

There’s an extra spark of recognition these days when I look at old photos of her.  She’s rooting through a purse, folding her arms, holding a book.

And she has my hands.

She never learned to play a musical instrument that I know of, but she could type about a jillion words a minute, error-free, whether on a manual typewriter or an IBM Selectric.  When word processing became an option, it was a breeze for her.

She spent hours at the keyboard, fingers flying, typing out the notes she would use to teach her Sunday School class, notes she then printed out in 5 x 8” booklet form.   Sometimes she would even add clip art and decorative embellishments, though no one was going to see her notes but her.

She wasn’t an artist but she was always willing to learn: ceramics, crochet, dress-making – she tried her hand at all.  She was a perfectionist, so smart and yet in many ways so insecure, which meant she always worked harder than most anyone else.

To this day, I treasure the tiny sugar bowl and creamer she shaped and fired in her community center class.  For years I had one of those crocheted doll skirts she made that would fit discreetly over a roll of toilet tissue. (Remember those? The doll stood in the cardboard core).  And I see her clearly in my mind’s eye, bent over the dining room table or kneeling down on the floor, pinning a pattern to fabric.

She penned many a note in the margins of her Bible with those hands and wrote out prayers to her Savior in longhand to tape on the mirror, clip to the refrigerator, or tuck in her purse.  After she died, anything with her handwriting on it became like gold to me, physical evidence of her existence through the words her hands had written.

I love the idea that God wants so much for me to understand the depth of His love for me, He uses human concepts, tangible images I can understand.  Like hands.

Now if I’m fidgeting, if I’m tense, if I nervously ball my fingers into a fist, I think to myself, “Look at me.  I’m turning into Mama.”  And love courses through me like an electric current.  She’s been gone 15 years but she’s really not.  God has given me her hands and I am so thankful.

I think of my mother when I look at my hands and I am reminded of the love I will always have for her.  And I picture Jesus thinking of me when He looks at His hands, with nail scars that bespeak an unfathomable, eternal love.  It undoes me every time.

That’s the thing about hands.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/kwerfeldein/2234720298/”>Martin Gommel</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photo pin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

Remembering Who I Used to Be

Earlier this week, a friend I haven’t seen in years sent me a video clip on Facebook he had recently put together from old footage of a group of us scuba diving off the beach of Hollywood, FL in the late 70s.

Back then, we all worked in the advertising department of a discount retail chain creating print ads for irregular merchandise, and battling boredom every day.  But we found our release by diving every chance we got after work and on weekends.  Our objective was always to catch tiny tropical fish for our saltwater aquariums (and maybe a Florida lobster for dinner), but mostly we just wanted to be together on the reef.

The film was a little blurry and shaky, and typically goofy like we always were.  My friend had converted it from 8mm to digital and added a soundtrack with a scratchy newscast about President Carter and some songs we all enjoyed back then.  It flipped the switch on a flood of memories for me.

Understand, I have lived in the Midwest for most of my adult life and haven’t been diving for years. But watching this shaky, silly video, I flashed back 35 years and there I was again.

What came back was more than just the basics of who, what, when, and where.   I smelled the air, felt the heat of the sand, shivered at the first plunge in the water.  I felt the pressure in my ears and the pounding of my heart, heard my breathing through the regulator and thrilled once again to the beauty of the underwater world.    

What’s more, I remembered how I felt then.  What I was conflicted about.  What I found pleasure in.  Who mattered.

We were all young and unconcerned about what life would hand us over the long haul – and in retrospect, it was a load.  On the reef that day, it didn’t matter.  We weren’t concerned that years later all we would have is a shaky film montage – and the feelings it triggered – to remind us of that simpler time.

I smiled and smiled, watching that video, but I cried a little, too.  For the one of our group of friends who won’t see it because he died of cancer 8 years ago.  And for another who won’t see it because our relationship was irretrievably broken decades ago.

But for 4 minutes and 19 seconds, I remembered who I used to be.  And who I still am.

Befuddled by Technology

And… technology tripped me up once again.  If you are a subscriber to this blog and got notification that I had posted about “How to Create an Oasis When Life is a Desert”, I apologize for publishing it prematurely.  Erica McNeal’s book does not launch until Monday.  I will re-publish the post then.  Aaaaaack!

A Lesson from Smudge the Dog

Last Sunday I came home from church and Smudge, our 15 ½ year old Jack Russell terrier, was SO glad to see me it was, well, ridiculous.  Dancing around, doing spins, leaping in the air, yipping like a puppy.

I was kind of pleased at first – I mean, who doesn’t want to get that kind of crazy-happy welcome?  (I am pretty awesome.)  But then she just wouldn’t calm down.  She IS a Jack Russell.  I wanted the mayhem to stop so I reprimanded her firmly.

Didn’t work.

Then, you know what I realized?  SHE DIDN’T HAVE ANY WATER.

She was glad to see me because she knew I was the answer to her problem: She was thirsty, I was the source of water, and that made her happy!  She trusted that now that I was home and she had my attention, she was going to get what she needed.

That didn’t initially occur to me because it wasn’t the kind of reaction I might have had if I were dependent on someone else to meet my basic needs.   I would have probably been all whiny and dramatic, maybe trying to elicit guilt or pity to get what I needed.

But not Smudge.

I started thinking about whether that would be a better approach for me as a human.  What if when I am confused or fearful, instead of praying about it in a whining, begging kind of way, I truly believed that prayer would reveal the answer to me and I got excited?  Seriously, that’s not my default response.

How humbling.

And yet, isn’t God the source of all that I need?  Maybe not always what I want in the moment, but truly what I need?  What if I really came to grips with that and with the fact that when I pray, I have God’s attention, and He is far more faithful to give me what’s best for me than I am to give Smudge what’s best for her?

I’m going to try that.  I’m going to pray and focus on the fact that God knows and wants what’s best for me and I’m going to choose to be excited for that.  I may not dance around and spin.  I certainly won’t yip like a puppy (how undignified), but I’m going to trust that He’s the Giver of all good gifts and He wants to give His best to me.

It worked for Smudge.  She got a full bowl of clean, cool water and lapped it up appreciatively.

How do you approach God – exuberant and expectant like Smudge, knowing you’re going to get what you need?  Or tentative and apologetic, like me?  Have you ever learned a lesson about God from your pet(s)?  Please share in the comments!

Is This An Alien Footprint?

Maybe.  I’ve wondered and imagined and told random children it was.  But the truth is, before I bought my house 22 years ago, my neighbors tell me there was a fish pond in the backyard.  It had a sidewalk leading up to it and a little bridge going over it.

Sounds lovely.

When they decided they were done with the annoying upkeep, though, apparently they broke up the sidewalk and took out the bridge, then just filled the fish pond with dirt and planted grass on top of it.  Now every time the temperature goes above 80 or two days pass without rain, the grass dies in this shape.

Ugh.

I didn’t know this before I bought the house because I closed on it in the middle of winter, when there was snow covering the grass.

I once talked to a landscaping service about digging the darn thing up and it was just too expensive, so I live with this ugly eyesore in my backyard.  It’s a good reminder of a couple of things:

  1. Deep roots are critical for real growth.  That’s such an in-your-face object lesson it almost doesn’t even need to be said.  But I sometimes need to be reminded that I can be as shallow as that grass if I don’t cultivate some depth in my life.
  2. What’s buried never really goes away.  My lawn looks great as long as the conditions are ideal.  But that fish pond is still there, heavy and useless, just under the surface.  If I want a perfect backyard (is there such a thing?), I’m going to have to get that thing taken out.  It’s going to cost me and it’s going to be involved.   What’s buried in my life that needs to be removed for me to be healthy?
  3. I settle for less than perfection a lot.   That’s not really a bad thing, as long as I don’t get all frustrated and weird when things aren’t perfect.  If I don’t want to have to explain the dead patch to guests, I either have to get it fixed or I have to not care.  But I can’t get mad at the grass for not growing.

What do you see in this patch of dead grass?  Are there any other lessons to be learned (or are there any bored landscapers out there who find it offensive and want to come help me out?)