Monday, April 30, 2007

Longing

From Thomas Merton's journals I found this, dated April 10, 1941: [note: He'd been thoroughly enjoying a visit to Our Lady of Gethsemani, an abbey, which was to become his home in later years. He'd found a refreshment in his mind and spirit like none he'd ever experienced.]

"I wished I were going to stay there - which is impossible. I wished it was not impossible.

I left early in the morning Monday. Got to Louisville at 8....There is a huge gap between the monastery and the world. Louisville is a nice enough town, but I wasn't happy to be thrown back into it.

It is terrible to want to belong entirely to God but see nothing around you but the world and not see Him. In the monastery you don't see Him, either, but you have nothing to do but lament your separation from Him, pray to Him, and pray for the world. In the world itself your prayers are drowned by the noise of the traffic: you have to watch out for cars, falling buildings, brimstone, thunder.

The world is beautiful with the sunlight, but the objects in the sunlight are not beautiful - they are strange....Speech is violent and hard and blasphemous. You weep because already you see how terribly difficult it is to hold on to the cleanness and peace you had at the abbey!

I go everywhere talking about the abbey."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Throughout the ages it has been obvious that we are not made for this world, but are citizens in exile.

One day..........one day.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Stampeding Herd

When I go for long spells without drinking enough water, say weeks, I lose some of my thirst instinct. My body doesn’t ask for much water.

When I drink plenty of fluids for weeks, then decrease fluids for a day, I become thirsty. My body asks for more, “Hey, what’s up?”

I wonder, is it possible for us to become so unaccustomed to feeding our inward selves, that we no longer crave spiritual nourishment? When I say inward selves, I mean, as my son used to say, “the part of me that is me." The soul, spirit, heart, intellect, all of those and whatever you want to call it. Anything but that hypnotized part of us that doesn’t think, but attaches itself to the mindless herd, that is addicted to intensive ‘doing’ in order to please, to get along, and to be seen as productive.

Nourishment for the inner being consists, for me, of following my intellectual and spiritual curiosity and contemplating what I discover. Lots of contemplation. It also consists of calm, pensive observation as I proceed along this journey. Intentionally simplifying my life has given me the space and time I need to nourish not only my own soul, but the souls of others who cross my path, most especially my family. How can we grow spiritually if we do not feed the soul, or taste the feedings when they come from the hand of God? How can we offer encouragement to others, if we have an empty pitcher from which to pour?

When I encounter people who run all day long, run fast and hard, skimming over the day at breakneck speed with the goal being to list off all the stuff they did, for the seeming purpose of personal validation, or for gold stars on some abstract, socially-acceptable chart, I shake my head in puzzlement. When do they nourish their inner selves? How can they observe God’s lessons when life is a blur? There is no time. They complain of exhaustion, of literally falling into bed drained every night, only to rise again in the morning to begin this insane racing through their next day. Day after day. Week after week, all the way to year after year. They seem satisfied with this overload of doing, often showcasing their list of checked-off activities for the day. It feels like a productive life to them, a full and rich life. It is a ruse.

“Where does the time go? It just FLIES by!”

No, it doesn’t fly by. It is simply...unnoticed...in the mad dash.

I know a woman who felt the need to schedule each and every moment of her children’s lives, with activities meant to give them the best encounters of all that life has to offer: music, sports, literature, art, church activities, language, social interaction, and more. Every day of Christmas, Spring, and Summer vacation had something planned. Her intentions were twofold. First, she wanted the children to have every advantage she could give them to succeed as adults. Second, she was terrified should they become bored. “What will I do if they are underfoot, and bored!”

This gal ran fast as a mom. She grabbed a wrist of each toddler and dragged them swiftly across the long buffet table of life for 18 years, so swiftly in fact, that the poor kids, off their feet, yanked horizontally from one end of the feast to the other, could manage to snag only a bit of knowledge here, and tad of spiritual nourishment there. She has no idea what may actually have been ingested.

Now adults, these same 'kids' are dazed. Just confused and unable to process what the heck it all means. Without a solid inner base, they simply panic, looking for someone to tell them what to do. Without consistent moral or practical guidance, no attentive mommy or daddy time, just a childhood of rushing and having stuff crammed into their minds, their energy drained through forced activities, these kids have found that their raising consisted of supermarket samples. No time to dream, to observe, to play in the garden, to process the easy and hard experiences of childhood, no parental insights or wisdom explaining the stuff of life, no time to just....be. The space in them meant for moral understanding, healthy curiosity, budding wisdom, and fresh-scrubbed energy has been vacuumed, and left hollow. They are starting from scratch. Their parents can barely recall the years the kids were home - it went by like THAT.

It’s not the tyranny of the urgent. It’s the propaganda of the herd, a thoughtless, stampeding herd. We are not meant to close our minds and hearts and flat out sprint through life. Children and adults alike require stillness, for it is there that nourishment bubbles up, and is gently shared. It doesn't help others for us to lose ourselves.

To feed the soul is to strengthen clarity, and grow wisdom. To starve it is to deafen the instinct to want to truly know, making it easy to believe the propaganda of the herd. Because without inner nourishing, the only voice that is heard, is the herd's.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Spooky Oil

Cassie, Caroline, and I had a very full day today of grocery shopping, unloading groceries, and doing heavy, sweaty, dirty, spring yardwork, among other things. In great spirits the girls showered and changed into fresh clothes. Then it was my turn. I stepped from the bathroom all showered and fresh, muscles relaxed, with the idea of soup and bread for supper. Ah, it felt good to be done working....and to be clean!

Just then, the girls came running around the corner, disoriented, excited, babbling over one another. "Oh no," I thought, that fearful mommy-knot forming up fast in my stomach.

"Mama, I was grabbing a can of soup out of the pantry and I bumped the new olive oil, and it fell!" said a penitent sounding Cassie.

"Yeah, Mommy," Caroline quickly spoke, excited and flushed the way she looks when she thinks she's in trouble. "It fell all the way from the top shelf onto the cement step, then crashed to the second step, then landed on the cement patio!!"

We have a tall, extra pantry outside, you see, by the back door, above the concrete steps and patio that lead into the house.

Seeing that they were not bleeding, I took a breath, then went right to, "Oh, heaven's nooooooo, not now. I'm so tired......." Oil! Of all things to have to clean up. And in that high traffic area. What a mess. I took it like a man, er, a woman, and began to think what to use to clean it.

"No, Mommy, listen!" both girls exclaimed, interrupting my gloom. "IT DIDN'T BREAK!!! It didn't even crack."

"Wha??? Huh??? Are you sure?" I asked in disbelief, eyes squinting down halfway....oh please, God, let this be true.....

"Yeah, I know because I shook it!" Caroline beamed!

Lucky lucky girls.......and lucky lucky me.

That is one spooky bottle of oil!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tip of the Tongue, Teeth, and Lips

Okay, so you know I am reading Merton's works, right? My brain is still clunking away from that last post, and will be for some time. Looking for freshness, I picked up one of my new books and lovingly opened it.

What did I read?

"Abbot Rambo questioned Abbot Anthony saying: What ought I to do? And the elder replied: Have no confidence in your own virtuousness. Do not worry about a thing once it has been done. Control your tongue and your belly."



Abbots Rambo and Anthony lived in the fourth century A.D.

Hmmm......

Just as difficult to attain today.

Just as noble the struggle.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Just Like That

Early in the morning, about ten years ago, on his way to his furniture shop with his wife, Tom's natural dad had a massive heart attack and expired, right there, in his pickup truck, on the road, going 55 mph. He just slumped over and was gone. God, in his mercy, had the truck aligned so that Mom could steer it into a grassy field that paralleled the road. She was unharmed, except that her husband of over fifty years, who'd felt fine at breakfast, no longer existed in this world. Just like that.

My 25 year old cousin was vacationing in the Virgin Islands, practicing holding his breath underwater for reasons known only to him, when he passed out, and drowned. He was found lying on the bottom of the hotel pool. Just like that.

Tom's adoptive father was cooking up sausage and eggs for the church's monthly Men's Breakfast at five o'clock in the morning when he got a funny look on his face, his legs buckled, his back slid down against the stainless steel refrigerator, and, spatula in hand, his body ceased to live. Just like that.

While piloting an experimental airplane, John Denver at age 53, made a fatal mistake because of the lousy positioning of the fuel valve. His aircraft nose-dived into the Pacific Ocean at Monterey Bay. Silenced forever, never again to write or sing another beautiful song, John stopped living. Just like that, he was gone from this existence, no good-byes, nor fare-thee-wells.

Thomas Merton, also at age 53, on an enjoyable, enlightening trip through Asia, with a full schedule of people, places, and events lined up, stepped from the bathtub, touched a poorly grounded electric fan, and was electrocuted to death. Right there, in a bathroom in Bangkok, here one second, gone the next.

I read somewhere that some Buddhist monks sit in silence before the body of one of their own who has died. They sit there, each day, until the body decays and bugs begin to consume it. They participate in this meditation so that they will come to understand fully that the body is not the person, that it is temporary, dust to dust. They do this to better grasp this interim existence. Observing the quick disintegration of the body helps them live deeper lives because they come to appreciate the vitality they possess, along with its fragility. A solid understanding of what is to come, lends itself to a richer appreciation of the here and now.

In this modern western culture we shield ourselves from death as much as possible. When someone dies, the body is whisked away, prettied up, and either privately burned or placed inside a gorgeous, ridiculously expensive box, lowered down into a cement casing, with a lid, and covered with verdant lawn. We are stunned, we are numb. We are shaken to our cores. While we'd prefer to take the time to process what dying means to us personally, our thoughts become quickly suppressed by decorum, regulations, and the tyranny of expectation.

Death scares us because most of us haven't realistically experienced it. We've survived it, brushed against it, and been frightened by it. But ultimately we try to outrun death. We mourn when a loved one 'passes away', and then we carry on with our busyness the best we can. The world doesn't slow down, but rushes past, urging us to hurry up with our grieving, and catch up. There's usually a window when we realize that this dear departing will happen to us, but we dodge that line of thinking rather quickly. So uncomfortable.

What I'm wondering is if, like the monks, I truly contemplated the idea of death, truly took the time to thoroughly study all angles of it, along with the fact that it really could happen at any moment to me or anyone else, would I appreciate more fully the vitality that I now possess? Would I appreciate the life around me more fully? Would I chuck most of the pettiness, the frustration, the controlling, and actually relax into observation and willingness? Would I realize clarity? Would I participate more, because I am able? I wonder.

Dad was mulling over plans for the day's shipment of furniture when he died.

My cousin was planning to attend his 2 year old son's birthday party then begin teaching him how to swim.

Tom's dad was going to feed 100 men breakfast, then study his Sunday School lesson for the following day. He was in the midst of directing a month of choir rehearsals for the Easter Sunday church service.

John Denver bought the little plane so that he could fly down to see his daughter in L.A. more often.

And Thomas Merton? His journals abruptly end with him looking forward to appointments and seminars for the days and weeks to come.

We live until we die. One thing is certain, though, we WILL die.

With that in mind, I do believe I could do living better.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Miss Sassy Pants

We had a neighbor, when I was growing up, a young teen-age girl who was very boy-conscious. She was a bit conceited, too. Brimming with self-confidence, she'd find a way to make herself available for a coy introduction to whichever Dreamboat caught her fancy at the moment.

My siblings and I used to watch her sassy strut as she paraded around the neighborhood in her cute outfits, hair carefully teased, and pale pink frosted lipstick four layers thick. We couldn't stand her behavior, I'll go ahead and say it. We could be bratty, I'll go ahead and say that, too.

One day, we were out playing in our front yard. Across the street was the back entrance to a small grocery store, where a new boy had recently been hired, and, you guessed it, he was 'dreamy'! Well, she thought so. To us he was just another kid.

This day we watched from our perch in a Chinese elm tree as Miss Sassy Pants sashayed down the street towards the back door of this shop. Today she was wearing crisp clean white pedal pushers, and a white short-sleeved sailor top, complete with a long wide collar down the back. She wore brand spanking new white canvas tennis shoes, and had immaculately turned her snug white bobby socks down once. Her hair was perfect. Frosted pink lipstick? You bet! She even had a pretty silver watch, which she checked frequently as she haughtily strolled down the street. In her hand was the loop end of a bright red leash which secured a little, short-legged, long-haired lap dog, who skimmed the street beside her like a centipede in a hurry.

"Ah," we surmised, "she'll say she's just out walking the dog and, 'Oh, what a coincidence, Dreamboat, that you and I should meet!'"

We watched as the dog bit at the leash and she scolded him with a controlling, "No! Bad dog. No!" The dog kept biting, and skimming, the way little doggies do. Miss Sassy Pants positioned herself directly to the right of the door Dreamboat would have to enter to report for work. She glanced at her watch smugly, and waited.

Right on cue, from the other end of the street, came her latest target, Dreamboat. He rode his bike up to the back of the store, and, oblivious to Sassy's presence, proceeded to lock it up to the bike rack. There Miss All Dressed in White stood, revving up her engines. She began to talk to him as he went about his bike routine. He didn't look up at her. Still, she flirted like a pro. Her hands waved sensuously, her head tilted back, her throat let out a tittering giggle, she leaned in toward him, and fluttered her eyelashes.

"He doesn't stand a chance," we sadly muttered as we peeked out from behind leafy branches.

Bike locked up, Dreamboat finally stood up straight, shoved his hands into his pockets, and looked straight at her at last, just in time to see the agitated little doggie lift its leg, and jet an eternally long yellow stream directly at the perfectly folded white bobby sock on Miss Sassy Pants' slim right ankle!

Dreamboat stared at the dog, gazed at Sassy Pants, shrugged, and headed for work.

Sassy Pants? With crimson cheeks she looked down at the warm rivulets of running yellow which seeped into her shoe, avoided Dreamboat's gaze, turned abruptly on her heels, and walked away with as much dignity as she could muster, while jerking the leash and saying, "No! Bad dog. No!" Squish, squish, squish.

My siblings and I? We were absolutely cracking up, tears pouring from our eyes, while maintaining our hiddenness in the elm tree.

Does God have a sense of humor or what?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Box of Books

Happiness is a rainy day when the chores are done, three of the kids are at the movies together, the fourth is studying, Tom and I have successfully tackled our first step in remodeling the kitchen, and.......the postman has just delivered a box of books!!! Bliss.

A box of books? Chocolate?

I think I'll take the books over the chocolate.

At least today............
*************************************

(What does 'successfully tackled our first step in remodeling the kitchen' mean? It means that we replaced the faucet which had developed such a constant torturous drip that the kids were beginning to confess all sorts of weird things in frantic crazed voices AND, we removed the wallpaper. The dripping faucet was silence to me, hard of hearing you know, so I found the kids discomfiture rather sad -- okay, I thought it was funny.)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Calm Water


"Men cannot see their reflection in running water, but only in still water."
--Chuang Tzu

The hideousness of life comes creeping around and slams you when you least expect it, and from the last person on earth that you imagine would hurt you in such a way. (No, not Tom or the kids.)

But this happens. It happens to all of us, now and then.

The response we make to it is the important thing.

I want to let loose a stream of justice-seeking words, but that won't help. It never does.

So, I'll write vaguely, and wait for calmness to return to its post.

And I'll fold the laundry. And I'll enjoy the kids. And I'll rejoice that Tom and I were able, together, to fix the refrigerator for free this morning.

There. I feel better already.

Calm the waters of your heart, old girl. The better to see your reflection. Once calmed, the problem will no doubt shrink, and peace will be restored.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

No Ordinary People

"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare....There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal." ~~ C.S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory"

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Walk and Roll

After a very long, complicated school session, Cassie, Caroline, and I decided to leash up Sammy and go for a stroll during a break in the rain storm yesterday afternoon. Caroline wanted to roller blade. Cassie didn't. Rather than have a squabble about it I suggested we just walk and roll.

So, we did, after we all chuckled at my incidental pun.

As I mentioned, it had rained and hailed all day, off and on. The skies were a beautiful mix of dark gray storm clouds, lighter gray clouds, and little patches of blue peeking out here and there. Everything was wet. It smelled like the first day of creation! (No, I'm not really THAT old!) The flowers wore droplets of rain as if jewel bedecked for a fancy ball.

Our local Starbucks has adopted our neighbor-hood park, planting many flowering plants under the tall cedar trees. New loveliness appears every day.


Though there is much grief and sadness in the world, beauty still abounds. The more ugliness is realized, the more beauty must be sought. Otherwise, like the victim of a mafia hit, cement boots of ugliness will weigh us down, pulling us under dark waters, until we are drowning in the bad, unable to breathe in what is still good, and lovely, and noble.

Shots rang out. People died. And the response? The response to the evil is the goodness in the self-sacrifice of a man for his students, the lovingkindness of parents who greeted their horrified, yet spared children with earnest, tight hugs, and the heartfelt expressions of compassion by friends and strangers for those whose lives abruptly ended and for their families whose shock remains deep. Let the response's brightness force the evil back into its oozing abode. As long as we live here on Earth, may we not allow evil to triumph, but make every effort to overcome evil with good.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Lilacs

Can you imagine how these smell? Can you imagine putting your face into the midst of these lovelies and breathing deeply?


I think that there will be the scent of lilacs somewhere in heaven.

I wish there had been a blue sky background today, instead of Oregon gray. Short is the span that lilacs look as fresh and vibrant as these, so I snapped these pictures quickly on my way home from the supermarket this afternoon. I think I spent more time sniffing them, smiling blissfully, with my eyes closed, face buried among them. I'm not a photographer, but you get the idea. Rain is expected tomorrow, rain which may batter and droop these pretties.

The girls were with me when I stopped. They were smiling when I got back to the car.

"What?" I asked.

"We saw you smelling them. You love lilacs, don't you, Mama?"

"I do. I sure do," I admitted.

We have a small lilac bush that Tom gave me for Mother's Day a few years ago. It's in a partially shaded area. Its buds have yet to open.

Soon, though. Soon.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Pot, LSD, and Me

The film "Bobby" churned up my 1960's California childhood memories. The pages of a book would not hold the entirety of my remembrances and impressions of that decade.

One memory is the nightly news on television. From our suburban dwelling Dad watched that 30 minutes of, what to me was, horror. The Vietnam war raged with chilling scenes shown on the news. College campuses erupted in riots, sit-ins, and walk-outs, settled with police batons, rubber bullets, rocks, and tear gas. Bead wearing hippies in robes and sandals seemed to grow up out of the dirt. The generation gap widened. Pot and LSD were nearly everywhere, as were bombs, Make Love/Not War signs, and adults in suits or jeans who constantly screamed at one another arguing the answer to all of this. I remember seeing the street signs for Haight and Ashbury, that famous district where the unwashed and washed-out migrated, a place crawling with strung out people who seemed crazy and mad. Scary stuff to a little kid.

When the news wasn't on, my middle-class world was idyllic.

Another memory recalls a particular road trip. It was about 1967 and I was 11. We drove through San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and on to Cloverdale to visit family friends in the country. After a refreshing, laughter-filled day, we got back into our dark blue Lincoln, the kind with the head lights that slanted outwards, matching the cat-eyed glasses my mom wore.

The drive across the Golden Gate was exhilarating for me, and crossing a second time in one day was no exception! It was so high! And the view! Mom and Dad were tense on the return trip. I think it was because there'd been a long line at the toll booth, and the sun was getting ready to set. Long tiresome day. Bickering ensued, over stupid stuff, the way it does sometimes. My sister sat in between our parents. I felt sorry for her. My older brother, black-rimmed glasses on his nose, sat next to me, and my older sister, bouffant hairstyle teased to perfection, sat next to him. I had a window seat on the left, behind Dad, who was driving.

Somehow, my street-smart father, who grew up in this part of California, became lost. Mom sniped. Dad reacted. We kids dummied up. The tension mounted, worse and worse, until, all of a sudden, we took a right turn and found the traffic stopped, in the middle of San Francisco. The car in front of us was creeping forward, but there were strange people wandering all over the street and the sidewalks. Three of them staggered towards our car! Two of these robe wearing men, with long dirty hair, crawled sloppily up onto the hood of our large vehicle, leaned their elbows and upper bodies on the windshield and stared at us. Curiously, within inches of my parents' taut faces, these bold hippies waved small clear plastic bags of what looked like oregano from Mom's spice rack. Dad said quickly, "Lock the doors! Windows up!" One loud click as all four doors were simultaneously locked. The windows were already up.

Mom and Dad froze, there was silence. The bickering stopped as hippies surrounded our Lincoln. Dad, who is 6'3", a tough guy, made funny noises in his throat, but didn't move. Mom white-knuckled the strap of her red purse. My grinning brother craned his head toward the glass to get a better view.

The third pouch-bearing hippie came to my window and roughly knocked on the glass. I remember that his eyes looked weird and his teeth were yellow and gross. I backed away. That's when I noticed the people on the sidewalk just outside my window. There were dozens of them, slumped in untidy mounds, like piles of luggage lying in heaps atop one another after being hurled from the summer camp bus. I thought the people were dead, but then realized some were waving their hands in odd ways in front of their faces, some were nervously talking to themselves, some were swaying quickly back and forth. I remember wondering if the concrete sidewalk was cold underneath them. I knew it was hard.

As Dad began to creep forward inch by inch, and as the hippies slowly rolled off the hood heading towards the car behind us, I looked out my window and up. That's when I saw it. The street sign. It said Haight and Ashbury! I stared in disbelief, my brown eyes wide open. The street sign from the news!!

"We are going to die!!"

But we didn't. Dad made his way, in silence, down the street filled with loud, dirty looking people wearing peace sign necklaces and peddling baggies full of pot, flashing us the two fingered peace gesture. As terrified as I was, the little rebel in me seemed to be born that day.

I held up two of my 11 year old fingers and flashed my first peace sign. One scruffy hippie girl smiled.

We made it home safely. The car unharmed; our parents friendly again. Everything went back to normal.

But I will never ever forget that 60's Haight-Ashbury experience from the backseat of a Lincoln, occupied by a staunch Republican, his straight-laced wife, his four sheltered, fresh-faced kids, and a yappy black poodle. It was enough to convince me that drugs were something I wanted to avoid, and hippies weren't that scary after all.

Groovy.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Brain Spa

(UPDATE: Below... )

I've decided to check my brain into a spa for the weekend. I've used it waaaay too much this week.

Yesterday I came out of our little office holding my head.

"My brain has had a HARD workout just now!" I'd been learning some stuff on the computer, reading some of your very intense blogs, studying, planning the girls' school lessons, balancing the checkbook, paying bills, bla bla ba. You know the drill.

"I think I need to exercise some other parts of me for awhile," I smiled and sighed.

Thank goodness it's the weekend!

To the brain spa I go.

First, a good sweat inducing Saturday workout of cleaning and sealing the bathroom grout, followed by a little weeding in the front yard. Swiss steak with brown rice, aspargus and fresh strawberries for supper with my family. An evening massage of beautiful music, followed by the hydration of jasmine tea. A candle lit, hot water soak in the tub. Ahh....what else?

Hmmm....A Sunday morning walk with Tom, the kids, and the dog through the park where I will stop and smell each and every lilac bush on the path, deep breathing in that scent. It's one of my favorites. A country church service. An afternoon of peaceful relaxation doing or not doing whatever comes to mind. The final brain spa splurge? A romantic dinner out with Tom.

Yes, this is what will rejuvenate my brain. I hope.

Stay tuned.....

UPDATE: The shower grout has been cleaned and resealed. It will be dry enough for that tube soak tonight - ah the bliss! I hope you guys are all finding some brain rejuvenating moments this weekend, too.

UPDATE #2: My brain is relaxed and mended, ready for another week of my life! I highly recommend the spa next time you find yourself holding your head after a tedious overdone workout. Worked for me!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Tagged? Me? Thanks!

A lovely, thoughtful young woman named Marianne has chosen to tag me with a Thinking Blogger Award. Marianne makes me think, that's for certain. In a lot of ways she reminds me of me at that age, only she is much wiser.

My expected response is to give Thinking Blogger Awards to five blogs which get my mind to churning. Easy, even though quite a few of them have already been nominated, such as Deanna's, and Angela's.

I am fortunate, however, to know five more.

1. Sandy. Sandy tells it like it is. Her perspective is more optimistic than mine, and that lifts me up, which is something I need from time to time. She uses her time to help others, she attends college even while her two sons are college men themselves, and she writes about these experiences - writing that makes me think!

2. Cecily. For only a few weeks I've been visiting Cecily's blog and have really enjoyed the trips. Cecily lives in Australia, which is cool, and some of her writing reveals the Aussie-speak which we Americans find irresistible. Thoughtful posts from Cecily, such as her Easter post, her light bulb changing post, and her spider posts, give me much to think about. I've become a regular visitor.

3. Liz. Liz is a Presbyterian Minister who lives in Scotland. A new and regular blogger, Liz's posts are full of variety and thought-provoking insights gleaned from her daily life. She posts many photos, which speak to my heart as well. She's funny, pensive, energetic, and she thinks differently, which I totally LOVE.

4. Iain. Also a Presbyterian Minister who resides in Scotland, Iain shares all sorts of fascinating things on his blog. He shares impressions of his many travels, along with photos, so that I get an inside view of different regions. He shares events from his daily life, and his views on things political, environmental, and spiritual. He's enlarged my vocabulary more than once. Anytime I encounter something fresh, it makes me think, and Iain's blog fits the bill.

5. Pam. Pam is perhaps the most clever person I know. She looks at life with a perspective that is upside down, sideways, and hilarious. Humorous posts leave me wondering how she comes up with such ideas, and that, makes me think.

Okay, so I've listed my five. Sandy, Cecily, Liz, Iain, and Pam, please consider yourselves officially tagged! You are all great people, with much to share; your thinking minds give us food for thought! Thank you!

Now I'm supposed to list the Participation Rules. Here goes:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged [which means your blog has been named on one of these lists of 5], write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.

3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (silver or gold version).

So, Marianne, again I thank you for your kindness in nominating this humble blog.

(Wonder what in the world a meme is? Or tagging? Go here. I had to. What a world, huh. Fascinating! Have fun!)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"Urge Ourselves to Life"


"Tis hard for us to rouse our spirits up-
It is the human creative agony
Though but to hold the heart an empty cup
Or tighten on the team the rigid reign.
Many will rather lie among the slain
Than creep through narrow ways the light to gain-
Than wake the will, and be born bitterly."

~~~~George McDonald, "Diary of an Old Soul"


"Dancing on the thorns of
Indecision across the plains of hesitation where
Many stop and wait and in waiting die."

~~~~from a speech by John Denver

**********************************

"Many will rather lie among the slain than creep through narrow ways the light to gain..."

"Many stop and wait and in waiting die."

Sometimes it seems like all around are those who have stopped, who are content with....just......being.....stopped. All tangled up. Lying among the slain. Hesitating. Waiting. For what? Really, for what?

*********************

"But we who would be born again indeed,
Must wake our souls unnumbered times a day
And urge ourselves to life with holy greed.
Now open our bosoms to the wind's free play,
And now, with patience forceful, hard, lie still
Submiss and ready to the making will,
Athirst and empty, for God's breath to fill."

~~~~George McDonald, "Diary of an Old Soul"

"Must wake our souls unnumbered times a day."

It really is up to us to get the most out of this life, isn't it.

It's knowing. It's understanding.

And we are so easily distracted.

And lazy.

We waste the precious gift of life on trivials. Anesthetized we go through the motions, we do whatever 'they' say we should, we follow the leader not looking close enough to recognize the Pied Piper, who is leading us over a cliff.

It's time to wake up. It's time to fight harder for what is good and noble and true within ourselves.

It's true that all that glitters is not gold. It looks like gold to us. But the gold has been stolen, replaced slyly with a gilded void.

"We look for rest and if we find it, it becomes intolerable. Incapable of the divine activity which alone can satisfy rest...fallen man flings himself upon exterior things, not so much for their own sake as for the sake of agitation which keeps his spirit pleasantly numb...The distraction diverts us aside from the one thing that can help us to begin our ascent to truth...the sense of our own emptiness." ~~~~~~~~ Thomas Merton

(Ah, nuts. I'm brooding again.)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Inside Out

Good clean competition. Such a thing exists, lending inspiration, motivation, and growth. Sometimes it takes the observation of a person seriously tapping into their own ability before we will rouse ourselves to take the action required for our full potential to flow. It's a gift to be motivated, not only to us personally, but to everyone who benefits from whatever is fully offered, whatever the discipline. Yes, I believe that competition can be a great resource.

However, it seems as though competition has too often overflowed its boundaries, to our detriment. It seems to have overtaken too many of the people I love, and those I don't even know. It's one thing to pursue a thing for fun or challenge, for skill building and exercise, or for expression, and quite another to strive for fame, rewards, and personal definition in that pursuit.

The same holds true for work. To work hard to support a family, or for the satisfaction intrinsic to occupation, or to relieve a societal need is noble, but to work hard in order to be defined by your work, for prestige, and for more and more money (there is no such thing as 'enough' I am told by the wealthy) is not noble, in my opinion. It is destructive. It mercilessly pounds the delicate part of a human, the part that notices true priority and balance, the quiet crucial part that is nurtured by consideration and simplicity towards wisdom, the intuitive nature which lets us know when we are needed elsewhere, or when elsewhere is needed in us. The part that knows there is something more to life than what is before our eyes and longs to learn what that is. Thankfully, this deeper facet is both resilient and tenacious. It will have its day, one way or another - most of the time, and eventually.

A little competition has been good for me, for I tend to be a listener. It gives me the bump I need to get moving now and then, to try new things, to polish up the old. I am happy that I can see the danger in competing for validation. I guess I've seen it enough in those around me, been the recipient of the neglect it induces, to have made the decision early in life to keep listening for the voice of God in my heart as well as in the resources of life, while trying to hold self-promotion at very long arm's length.

See, I don't want to find myself old and defeated by life and greed, by the bad side of competition, realizing that in neglecting the precious, I have come to a regretful, broken ending, haunted by the memories of damaged loved ones, by the life that could have been, had I only listened more closely to reality, while fleeing that devil pride.


(Postscript: Cassie has posted her latest story about a little girl in Japan. Just thought some of you might like a good escape.)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Jesus vs. Bunny

Words are not coming to me this morning. Easter blessings? Happy Easter? Remember the Lord? Don't let the candy make you sick?

I dunno.

The inability to express my heart concerning the events of Easter led me to quit trying to force it, and just do my blog rounds. Sandy has some optimistic, encouraging words. Her Easter post led me to Cecily's, a refreshing new-to-me blog. Cecily has the words I was looking for, and more. Her thoughtful entry says it all.

Amidst the good traditions I do hope you can make the time, in quietness and stillness, to sort through all the weird stuff that has become "Easter", to contemplate its deep crucial meaning for we humans who are lost without it.


(P.S. Caroline just wrote a new post about our trip to the beach. It's cute, and tells a funny thing that happened while there. You might enjoy it. I did. :-)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

All We Like Sheep.....

Some of you may realize that Pam and I are friends. We've been friends for nearly twenty years. We are twins, separated at birth by a few years, and with different mothers. Well, we are kindred spirits. And we both like this story, because we so totally relate......to the sheep.

True story, cross my heart.

My grandparents moved to northern Idaho in the 1940's. After buying dozens of partially cleared wooded acres from an old mountain man/homesteader named Dewey, they settled into the pastoral life. Grandma was a teacher who left the rustic cabin each morning, driving her Cadillac (yes, it's funny) to teach in a one room school house, while Grandpa, an electrician by trade, pursued his big dream of raising sheep for the meat and wool. He had quite a flock of pretty, skinny legged, fat-bellied sheep.

Both grandparents were successful in their endeavors. However, Grandma had the superior species to work with, that being vigorous, unruly, spit-wad shooting, braid-dipping, snake in the teacher's desk, irrepressible mountain children. Grandpa? He had sheep.

"Dumb sheep," he was known to mutter in frustration and disgust. He was the most patient man I've ever known, so when I'd see his hair messy, his face red, and his kind eyes squinted into a frown, I knew something was amiss. But he generally didn't let me see him like that, for it passed rather quickly, kind soul that he was.

Grandpa had two pastures: the big meadow and the little meadow. Of course he had to move the sheep back and forth between the two grassy areas for grazing. There was a bell on one of the sheep, and even with my half-deaf ears I could hear the thlunking that it made. I loved the sheep, even the big scary looking ones. Grandpa could get the bell wearer to do whatever he wanted, and the other sheep followed.........most of the time.

Being a Californian on vacation in the rugged, sparsely populated forests of Idaho, the whole sheep thing was a complete paradise to me. Sweet sheep. Gentle, well-groomed Grandpa. Cadillac driving, huckleberry-pie making Grandma. City-slicker California family. And me, who spent each day hiking from the little meadow, to the big meadow with my little sister, just because we could.

Well, as luck would have it, I was there the day Gentle Grandpa let loose the Beast Within, provoked beyond the last straw and over the line by those sheep. Grandma was wondering why Grandpa hadn't come in from his afternoon of moving the sheep back to their sheds. It was suppertime, straight-up six o'clock, and Grandpa never missed supper, not by a single minute. Grandma, my parents, my three siblings, and I sat down at the table and sort of hesitantly let my dad say grace (Grandpa's job), while slyly looking out the huge picture window with peeking eyes for any sign of our stray Gramps.

More than halfway through our quiet nervous meal, we spied Grandpa heading up to the house, red faced, muttering and sputtering to himself, hair wild, clothes dirty (never!), khaki shirt untucked in places (gasp!), with an old, silvered, three foot long piece of two-by-four lumber in his hand. He came into the house after propping the wood in the corner by the front door, washed up, smoothed his hair, tucked in his shirt, and joined the seven of us who had stopped mid-chew to watch this odd, out of place routine that was unfolding before our eyes.

"Well, Pappy? How are the sheep?" asked my often irreverent dad, who began to chew and chuckle.

"DUMB SHEEP!!" Grandpa snarled. "They wouldn't go where I'd herd them! They split up! Half scrambled into the woods, they didn't follow the leader, they all scattered no matter how I'd guide them! The dogs couldn't even get them to do what they were supposed to!"

"Are the sheep in their pens now?" asked a concerned Grandma.

Long pause. Grandpa was chewing. He always chewed his mouthfuls of food twenty times because his 4th grade teacher said it was better for digestion. Eighteen. Nineteen. Twenty. "Yes."

Before Grandpa could get another forkful up to his mouth prompting another twenty-chew delay, Dad said, "How'd you do it, Pappy? How'd you get them in if they were gunnin' for you?"

"I hit 'em in the head with that two-by-four, that's how!" he growled triumphantly in his deep bass voice. With force he added, "Whack! That got their attention."

Dad laughed uproariously. Mom looked stunned, for her dad was not normally given to such displays of vehemence. Grandma shrugged nonchalantly. My little sister and I stopped chewing, our eyes as wide as they'd go.

"Yup, that got their attention! Dumb sheep!" Grandpa said as the realization of victory slowly began to change his countenance from rage back to gentle Grandpa. He sold the sheep within the year. Enough was enough.

And to think, Jesus compares us to sheep. When we are idiotic, lost, or just stupidly standing there not getting a clue, a gigantic two-by-four bearing fist seems to come from the sky to give us a WHACK! and we pathetically cry, "Baaaaaa".....for we are dumb sheep.

Sometimes it takes a good Whack-Baaaa! to get us oriented aright, and back to the safety of the Father's pen.

[Grandpa really was fond of those sheep. Please know that the whacking had no ill effects on the sheep. They were no stupider after than they were before. :-)] (This post is dedicated to Iain, here's MY sheep story, and to Pam, who understands and laughs with me when I get whack-baa'd by God.)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sand, Surf, and Serenity

Here's where we've been for the past few days! Glorious weather, quiet and peaceful. The lovely lovely Oregon Coast.




















Each night the sky was painted in a gorgeous sunset for us to behold, and be still before.









Crashing waves, tide pools, and long deserted stretches of shore gave us everything we needed..........to unwind.






Sea anemones and tufted puffins. Two of my favorite beach creatures!

















The old snap it yourself photo of Tom and me.





Tom and I went over alone for a couple days of quiet before Joe brought Cassie and Caroline over so they could spend a few days at the beach, too.





I'll write something substantial soon. For now, I'm going to bask in the afterglow. You understand.........



Self-explanatory, huh, Pam. Tom and Andy helped me do this for you. I thought it might make you feel good knowing your name is (was?) in the sand, by the water that you love and crave. ;-)