Tag Archives: Christian Life

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:


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?

Rats with Good PR

Trespasser in my yard this morning

Sometimes you can get away with being destructive and annoying, as long as you’re cute, have a fluffy tail . . . and good PR.  Squirrels are like that.  They are members of the rodent family, but they are from the better-looking side.

We tend to treat everyone – including wild animals – differently when they’re adorable.  

We see squirrels in our yards and trees, in our parks, on running paths, near our picnic tables, and we don’t freak out.  We’re amused by their lightning-fast antics.  Some people even toss them a scrap of food and encourage them to come closer.

It’s true that given a chance, they’ll raid your bird feeder and dig holes in places you wish they wouldn’t.  They sometimes get in your attic and have families up there, which is generally frowned upon.

But they’re frisky and furtive and they mainly keep their distance.  When they do come close, we’re not particularly threatened (unless your mother has warned you that “wild animals that act docile are probably rabid!”)

But put a rat the same size in the same locations and we’d be screaming our lungs out (and I, for one, would be googling the nearest exterminator).  We wouldn’t be encouraging them with food or thinking they’re precious.

It’s all in the packaging.

People can be like that.  They can look good on the outside and behave according to others’ expectations.  They can be industrious and well-behaved, even entertaining.  But maybe they’re not really like that on the inside.

Maybe we’re all rats; some of us just have better PR.

What do you think? 

The Best Kind of Copycat

Dreams are weird; I think we can all agree on that.  They rarely make sense and they can be disturbing, especially if there’s spicy food involved.  Sometimes, though, a dream can be thought-provoking, even thrilling, and you don’t want it to end.  Have you ever had one of those?

Not long ago, I dreamed I was running on a flat, rock-strewn desert trail.  I was all alone and I don’t know why I was there.  It was hot and unappealing and I was struggling to keep going.

As I slogged along, a man appeared seemingly out of nowhere up ahead of me who was gliding along effortlessly.  It was mesmerizing to watch him.  It was obvious he was enjoying himself and rather than becoming fatigued, he seemed energized by the effort he was expending. 

I decided to imitate him.  I began to measure my stride so that it matched up with his.  I swung my arms the same way he did and bounced in unison with his steps.

He began to deviate from the path so I did the same and found myself below a huge canopy of trees, still only a few yards behind him.  It was cool and refreshing even though we were increasing our pace and the trees were melting into a blur around us.

Then he adopted a strange skip-like step that made it look like he was floating between footfalls.  Again, I did the same, springing along with the same rhythm and almost immediately, I was looking down on the trees while willing myself upward with my mind.  When I touched the ground, I would catapult back up, higher and higher with each stride.  I kept my eyes on this unusual apparition of a man and did everything he did.  I had the clear sense I could go on forever just by imitating him.  It was invigorating and effortless – I squealed with delight.

And woke myself up.

The dream probably lasted less than a minute in real time but I awoke feeling, of all things, hopeful.  Now isn’t than an unusual thing, to wake up feeling hopeful after a dream that had me floating over rough terrain and bouncing above trees at blinding speed?  I should have been exhausted.

But I think the key in that short dream sequence had been the presence of that man ahead of me and recognizing that if I carefully mirrored his actions and did what he did, I could go far beyond my own natural capabilities.

I’m not saying my dreams always make sense or that I glean any kind of lesson from most of them.  In fact, if I remember them at all, sometimes they just make me sad.  But this one seemed to have a message for me:

How often do I spend my waking hours with my eyes glued in defeat to the craggy trail ahead of me?  How often have I let other people influence my opinion of myself and tell me what I’m capable of?  How many times have I missed seeing “Someone” right in front of me who would show me my real potential, if I just followed the example He set?

My hopefulness came from recognizing that God, through his Holy Spirit, is on this life journey with me.  He wants to lead me and has made it possible for me to hear from Him through prayer and His word.  He has put others on this same desert path with me who have received wisdom from Him that they will gladly share.   I know by letting Him show the way and set the pace, I can bring glory to Him in ways I could never even imagine on my own.

And I was encouraged.

I think the next night I dreamed about a wild-eyed guy at the Secretary of State’s office who had 7-foot dreadlocks and told me his name was Verdunk Isthmus.  I don’t know WHAT that was about.

Mining the Treasure of the Second Verse

When was the last time you heard a new Thanksgiving hymn?  There are the old standards that many of us recognize, perhaps from our childhoods:  “We Gather Together”, “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”, “Now Thank We All Our God”.   But since Thanksgiving is mostly a single weekend observance – and sadly, one that is overshadowed now by “Black Friday” and the start of Christmas shopping season – it’s rare we hear a new take on Thanksgiving songs.  The lyrics of the traditional hymns are beautiful, the melodies memorable and it’s all so, well, comfortable.  Nothing wrong with that.

Just a few days ago, however, I read in Psalm 96: “Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.”  Since I’m no composer/songwriter, what would that look like for me? How could I sing a “new song” to thank God for all my blessings?  I decided to look past the familiar first verses of these old songs to the second verses, to consider where the hymn writers went with them next.  It was a great exercise in examining things a little differently and perhaps more deeply.

Here’s an example.  Verse 2 of “Now Thank We All Our God”, a song written in the late 1500s, says:

O may this bounteous God

Thro’ all our life be near us,

With ever joyful hearts

And blessed peace to cheer us;

And keep us in His grace,

And guide us when perplexed,

And free us from all ills

In this world and the next.

The evidence is clear here that God is a bounteous God – His presence, His peace, His grace, His guidance and His deliverance; all are listed among  His blessings to make the case for His generosity.  (And I love the reference to being perplexed!)  The songwriter encompasses the full span of our human experience: “all our life”, “in this world and the next”.  What a wonderful reminder to keep the long view and remain joyful!

How about you?  What is your favorite Thanksgiving hymn?  How does the second (or third or fourth) verse help you to worship God with a “new song” this Thanksgiving?