bT – aT

It concerns me to think that I may have to accept that I will never be the same again: bT vs aT (before and after Trudy).  It conflicts with what I thought I was accepting – that if, and since, I am still here God must have a plan for me.  Couple this with retirement, and getting it stuck in my head that I only have 10-15 years left – well, I’m closing down before the bell has rung.  And that doesn’t seem right.  Taking up space, and air, and resources – this place on earth without contribution?  So maybe it’s as simple as purpose.  Whatever it is, my heart’s not in it.  And that doesn’t seem right either.

I miss my family.  Maybe it’s that simple even as it remains that un-solvable.  Please Lord, make me a channel of your love and caring and peace on earth today, and please help me to look for You today and feel You in my life today in ways that lift me to Your purpose.  Help me be present to Your now and Your purpose for me.

Clean It Up – Dream It Up

It’s almost New Year’s Eve – that magical yet pesky night of regrets and renewals bridging past and future plots as fast and glittery as any Mad Man script.

I just finished making my first list of closing out 2012 and thoughts for 2013, and I find that I have two items needing attention before the last day of the year.  I do not want to do either as they are along the lines of amends.  But, I will, as a practical practice that helps make my life work better, prepares me to better love and serve, and unblocks the doorway to dream.

And dream I do.  I have so many hopes, goals, creative projects and optimistic outlooks for the new year that I sit here in a bit of awe.  What a life we get to live that we get to clean it up and dream it up – both, however, could be dangerous slopes for me if not step and Spirit-led. 

So as we come to the close of this year, I hope you too can find a permissive pause to listen to your heart.  And may the peace of God greet you in this moment between the years – this threshold of dreams.

Anniversaries Melt our Hearts

Anniversaries melt our hearts – pooling at our Feet.

I’ve had a hard time with missing my sister today.  It’s as if the annual anniversary has melted my heart and puddles at my feet.  A dam I didn’t even know existed over these past months has broken – swoosh, swoosh and more tears. 

I stand precariously close to the edge of the tempting river of self-pity, resisting immersion only by knowing that to enter would mean a dangerous and an un-foretold ride on whitewater rapids of grief; without surety of finding an exit point along the banks measured by calendar or emotions, or even spiritual rope thrown by friend or God.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t stare longingly at the mesmerizing water route downstream and away from where I stand, and dream about what it might feel like to let go, totally; to give into this lump in my throat, the pain in my tummy, and these intermittent flashes and feelings of Trudy’s fingers in mine while they were still warm with her life.

What I want to do is call Trudy. Continue reading Anniversaries Melt our Hearts

Come Before Winter

I didn’t feel like writing this morning.  I have time so I will. 

Seconds before pen hit page… well no, that’s not right.  While writing the first sentence… no, that’s not right either.  In writing the date at the top of my page, November 3, 2012, I felt the remembrance: not long before Trudy dies, or rather, I sense in this time the echo of her passing.  A cavernous queasiness takes hold of my mind and my heart and my soul.

If I must remember an anniversary this morning I prefer to think of the spring tulips planted for Trudy by Grandpa Wyatt at the little house; beneath the small crabapple tree in the center of the drive, just east of the sidewalk that lead to the front door. Continue reading Come Before Winter

Truth Always Rises to the Surface

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.  And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 12-13.

Truth always rises to the surface with Christ’s love.

In small things and in not so small situations and circumstances, I reach for this memory of what was given to me at the Abbey.  First revealed in permission, space, time and resources to tap into the fun of creating with paper, watercolors and glue; then with bounty of red, green and golden leaves, twigs, rocks and rivers outside the warm walls of comfortableness; handed to my soul when distracted and bugged by a contentious and seemingly disastrous democratic process of electing our political leaders.

Truth always rises.

Not truth as I know it – as what I declare or want as truth – but as God’s truth.  Even as it may be veiled from my eyes as I see in the glass darkly; as it may be withheld from my sight and understanding in this time or in my lifetime, it will rise. Continue reading Truth Always Rises to the Surface

Jazz and Jesus

The following is an excerpt from a recent article I wrote, titled Jazz and Jesus, for Trinity Episcopal Church‘s monthly newsletter, The Window of Trinity Church.

“It is the seemingly random notes, clamoring with spontaneous hints of harmonies that dance and mix making the magic and beauty of jazz. Just when you think all roads back to a lead sheet have been challenged by indulgent, erratic singular winds of random clanging, the melody reemerges as strong and original as its beginnings. What is made to sound simple, yet at times complex and against all fundamentals of musical law, works! And works well as steady, seasoned hands of human skill, study, discipline and yielding spirit controls the melodic rudder – exploring variations and limits of fundamentals and familiar law.

Can this also be a story of God working in our lives by sharing his Son in a world set upon seeing God’s law with only eyes of tradition and the past?”

The full article follows or can be found at: The Window of Trinity Church – December 2012

Jazz and Jesus
At the last minute today, my husband and I picked our old bones up off the couch and went to the 12:30 Jazz Mass at Trinity Episcopal Church.  Why there? Well, it’s a rather winding tale but suffice it to say – breadcrumbs were laid.With barely enough time to reconsider, we got up and out and drove downtown to the 100-year old church at Holman and Main.

Immediately upon stepping into the church it felt familiar – like stepping into a field of old souls and collective prayers of petition and thanksgiving.  The Jazz Mass service is held in the smaller chapel of light blonde woods and deceivingly simple, brilliantly lit-by-the-sun stained glass windows boasting Christian histories and passions.  And to the front is displayed the oddest painting I have ever seen in a church, or anywhere, of the rising Christ.

At first I thought the work was just not appropriate with its avant-garde depiction of Jesus as a young, handsome white man.  Too handsome.  Too white.  Too hip.  Yet as I sat facing the 9-foot canvas hanging above the simple alter; the more I looked – really looked – I began seeing details and symbols reflecting the power and love of that one moment in time and the sacrifice that changed all moments thereafter.

The crown of thorns falling to the ground; in its place was a crown of blooming lilies.  I saw the crowing rooster.  I saw the cup and the bread of the night before.  I saw bold, emblazoned colors of orange and black and gold filling the resurrection plane with an arresting, atomic style that disturbed my sense of sacred artistry and expression. But then… was not the death and resurrection of Christ the most powerful moment, the greatest detonation of energy and light and waves of consequence ever experienced on our earth?  How fitting then is this bomb-like depiction of death-defying resurrection?

Having squared myself to the visual, I allowed the deeper connection and stirring and presence of God to seep and settle into my bones as the pianist coaxed and launched the dissonant notes of jazz.  Here, now, and in this church I was once again experiencing the glorious presence of the Holy Spirit.  I wallowed in the sweet, sacred syrup of God’s Spirit as expressed through His Word, His music, and our songs of praise.  Only my desire to not be distracted or miss part of what God was making possible kept my tears of sentiment, joy and wonder at bay.

The message was good; the liturgy comforting.  We shared communion.  The ensemble of piano, standup bass, soft jazz drum, four-in-a-chorus singers and us, the congregation, combined to bring back memories of how music, praise, spirit and worship brings us together as a part of the greater whole – God’s community.  What fellowship in this Spirit I thought could not be replicated and lost to a time of moving ministers and fading congregations, was lifted to yet greater stirrings in my soul, and the code was broken: of course it’s jazz.

It’s jazz and Jesus.

It is the seemingly random notes, clamoring with spontaneous hints of harmonies that dance and mix making the magic and beauty of jazz.  Just when you think all roads back to a lead sheet have been challenged by indulgent, erratic singular winds of random clanging, the melody reemerges as strong and original as its beginnings.  What is made to sound simple, yet at times complex and against all fundamentals of musical law, works!  And works well as steady, seasoned hands of human skill, study, discipline and yielding spirit controls the melodic rudder – exploring variations and limits of fundamentals and familiar law.

Can this also be a story of God working in our lives by sharing his Son in a world set upon seeing God’s law with only eyes of tradition and the past?  Jesus came and introduced a rather radical interpretation of the law while striking a perfect balance of discipline and expansion.  Just when the Elders around Him thought they could find a way to accuse Christ of abandoning the Law, He demonstrated faithful fulfillment for the law of love for God and love for one another.  When Christ pushed and pulled those closest around Him to expand and test their own hearts, He lifted the Law to higher purposes of mercy and service to others.

He pushed and pulled those around him to test their hearts, challenging them to placing the law within context of their own histories and compassions, and like the early experimentalist in jazz, what appears at times random – isn’t.  What appears as straying from our lead sheet of purpose can be the very pathway to a closer walk with God.  What may seem disconnected and unrelated; what tragedies or mis-steps may first appear as proof of sin or absence of God, can become part of a tailored melody lovingly weaved with perfect sequence, timing and timbre.  Spaces between the notes – time of questioning our faith – becomes as important as the exhale; a seemingly random line of reasoning becomes the root of understanding, and truth triumphs just this side of chaotic collision of self-discipline and free will.

As Jesus yielded to complete the law of sacrificing himself for our sins, He left us with a song of redemption and Grace.  The law had never looked or sounded this way before, but with the heart of Jesus it always leads back to the love and care of His and our Father. And all seemingly random acts and shortcomings are made right through the love and redemption of the cross.

Jazz and Jesus.

Today for me, it was a greeting from God that when I yield and follow the small nudge with an open mind, I might get a reminder of how good it can get.  And that feeling of practicing seeking God, and praising God with others is precious to me; it too is about as good as it can get.  It is life- and spirit-enriching, and Les and I can find this again and again if we are willing to listen for God and not rest on complacency.

We were greeted today in ways we could not have imagined, and I can only close with: I love God, and God loves us.  All of us.  I got to feel His loving and creative and artful Spirit in my Soul today in a little bit brighter way than some other places, and certainly more than if I had stayed at home on my couch.

Grace of Faith

“It has pleased Thee to withhold from me a perfect knowledge; therefore deny me not the grace of faith by which I may lay hold of things unseen.” A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie.

I love this phrase: grace of faith.  I love that it has meaning to me because of personal experience, and I love that it is here in my morning time to remind me that I am not alone in need and facing what feels like fear of fear (future events appearing real).

Since my sister passed away earlier this year I have noticed that a new line of fears have emerged and teased for my attention.  I’ve noticed that in June and July, five or six months before the holidays, I am afraid of what my first Christmas will look like without Mom and Dad and Sis.  I’m afraid of being suddenly struck with a new and debilitating discovery that all the farmhouses and their holdings of family Bibles and 8mm film canisters are gone – disappeared – lost and no longer a two hour plane trip away.  And I’m surprised by how intensely I fear losing Les; what would I do, how could I survive if something were to happen to my best friend, my husband, my only* remaining family? 

Without too much resistance or procrastination, I mentioned these recent fear-based distractions to my friend.  She knows me well; she holds my story in trust with an objectivity that I can not recall or see.  She listened, nodded, and asked: are these fears the kind that can stay on the shelf?  “You know”, she continued, “the kind that are there, always present, but reserved for the most well-grounded, prayed-up times, and the ones that can usually be kept separate from daily thoughts or influence.”  What I’ll call “shelf-fears”.

What a great question. 

She also suggested that I have already come through what I had imagined would kill me, and I had in fact survived with an even greater faith.  She went on to tell me that there is no reason to believe any future event would be met with any less of God’s strength and love as has carried me before.

What a great reminder of trust.

With these tools of being heard and seen, and in the light of love, I can afford to examine and determine which ones are in my life for a purpose of being noticed and possibly resolved today, or of a nature that I can afford to notice but leave on the shelf?  And I can look back to my own past experiences of how God can re-shape fears into blessings with surprisingly positive outcomes.

So, I can’t help but wonder that in God’s perfect knowledge this Christmas may also hold a particular beautiful bit of Grace.  This passage, these questions to look deeper into the nature and limits of my fears, reminds me how I know that God can re-shape fears to blessings and set my feet back on solid ground and trust – at least for the moment.  And I can be in the day, this day.  This moment is where I can put my fears back onto the shelf and call to memory my own experiences of Grace of Faith.  And that too is Grace.

 *’only’ is not exactly true as I have my wonderful in-laws and cousins, but as many of us know, fears are not always rational nor accurate.

Welcome to this space – a gathering place for the mind, body and soul.