trumpet

trumpet

 

20140614_152226

In the college/farming community where I grew up, my father was the hospital pharmacist. He had also been quite an athlete in his day (understatement) and as a hobby, he officiated football. He began refereeing high school football games in pint-sized towns and worked his way up to the college ranks and even became the president of the national association of sports officials. He aimed to encourage more women and people of color to pursue officiating in all sports and levels. My brother and I were raised by parents who exhibited excellence no matter where they put their minds and hands. 

When I was ten, my father and another referee were assigned to a game in a nearby town. He invited my friend, Marilyn, and me to tagalong for a Friday night outing. We were girls who played kick the can with our neighbors or hide and seek in wheatfields. Even going to a town a fraction of the size of our own was an adventure to us. 

We giggled in the back seat with anticipation of going to a football game under the lights. When we arrived, Marilyn asked me if the Greyhounds (our town’s high school mascot) or the Cougars (the college’s mascot) were playing. I mumbled that I wasn’t sure. The answer was none of the above.  We were young, innocent, and a bit clueless. My dad gave me money to buy concessions at half-time and told us to have fun, and he would see us after the game. Please note this was during the ’70s, in small-town America, a distant land where I grew up never considering locking a door, so this wasn’t an unusual scenario. 

As we had arrived much earlier than the game’s start time, Marilyn and I ran around until we heard cheers erupt as football teams took the field. We discovered there were not any bleachers, and fans were standing along the sidelines to spectate, which we were unaccustomed, but took in stride and entertained ourselves. 

At half-time, we were ready to spend our money and ran up a hill to enter the promised land of candy. We reached the top of the ascent and nearly crashed into a group of high school girls. In unison, we raised our chins to lay eyes on those we believed to be mythical creatures, the ones who could drive, wear make-up, and go on dates. As stars shone in our eyes, the closest girl looked from my blonde-haired friend then in my direction, uttered an expletive followed by a slur. Her words were few but the volume beckoned more eyes to land on me.

I won’t type the expletive nor the slur. This type of language is not worthy of repeating or space on my blog. All slurs are wrong however, in this particular case, the one lobbed at me did not “belong” to my ethnic group. 

We stood motionless, stunned for a moment, and as perhaps only grade school kids can pull off, looked at each other and roared with laughter then turned to run back down the hill.  

Despite the super-charged moment, we didn’t talk about it then, although we have as adults. We can only surmise that we knew what had occurred was hurtful and didn’t make sense but equally ridiculous for someone to hurl a doubly wrong insult. Racism is rooted in faulty, hasty assessments and misplaced fear. It can be obvious or subtle. 

It’s unwise to speak in absolutes. Although, I suspect few people of color haven’t experienced some form of racism. Most of my experiences would be characterized as benign compared to others and those missing from history books or acts of violence viewed on witnesses’ cell phones. Yet this story is over 45 years and despite not recalling every detail, two friends remember, it’s stitched into our histories.

If you were to enter this story, what part would you play?

Are you surrounded by those whose skin tone rarely resembles your own, hoping to be seen as equal and valued? Do you possess a hushed fear that ordinary activities could in an instant turn ugly?

Are you a leader with words laced with stereotypes designed to perpetuate negative perceptions and division? Do you bring up ethnicity when it isn’t necessary to mention?

Are you flanking the leader vacillating between awkwardness and agreement, but by remaining on the same ground, the choice is made? 

Do you identify with the crowd, minding your own business, believing the unfolding scenario doesn’t involve you and therefore, not your concern?

Are you now or have always been, the friend standing shoulder to shoulder, turning away from racism as an act of defiance and solidarity? Are you the one who walks beside friends as allies, helping to deflate the power of the maddening crowd?

Who are you? 

Who do you long to be? 

Guess what? It’s possible to have inhabited many of these characters. Have you ever uttered a word used routinely by others only to discover it was not appropriate or kind?

Allow me to raise my hand.

Several years ago, my husband and I were watching a television program. A woman spoke about her background and expressed how a certain word made her feel. Carl and I gasped with disbelief. This was a word, often used as a verb, we particularly remember hearing during our childhoods. If we had known its spelling, we might have questioned its origins, we hope. We realized how easily our language can be infiltrated with harm when we adopt words without thought. Now if we hear this word we will have the opportunity to gently educate from a place of our own learning.

No matter where you stand today, there is an opportunity to turn around and lock arms with others as allies.

*****

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, LORD, my Rock, and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:14 


*While writing drafts of this post, I titled it after the name of the town where my story took place. I had no intention of using the name when posted.  It was incredibly interesting to learn the meaning of this word is trumpet, to produce a sudden and brief burst of force. The words we speak may be momentary but carry a tremendous amount of force and the effects may remain longer than when first reached the air and ears.

May our words bless and not curse.

 

resting and returning

resting and returning

Hello friends.

I am full of joy and expectation to be writing again in this space.

I was unsure about returning this summer. As I began my break, it was apparent, I was more exhausted than envisioned. I felt empty of words and couldn’t see a clear path or direction before me. It is a huge disservice to attempt to manufacture content, a pause was wise and beneficial. 

Resting is vitally essential for all of us.  Somehow I had succumbed to a belief that the collective shut down of life was restful. I had slowed down but the constant changing tides of any given day took a toll.  I pushed back many of my emotions related to the pandemic and racial tensions to the background and kept going. 

I say to you today, don’t mistake this time of being less busy with outside of the home pursuits as any less taxing. We all need time to reflect, grieve, process, and reassess. Even usual summertime activities are different than in the past. We have lost our care-free existence and spontaneity and I am guessing even if this wasn’t a normal bent, it would be welcomed right now. 

My time away from this blog didn’t feel different during the first two weeks. Life continued with more in-person gatherings with my children but even being in the company of my nearest and dearest still brings an element of feeling risky and foreign. We spent a few days in two cabins along the Columbia Gorge, a precious family memory. We felt safe and secluded and did not take for granted the blessing of those days. We had our masks when we did venture into any area with people which was twice on a waterfall hike and to pick up take-out one evening.

I woke up early each morning to spend time with God and to simply watch the water from the deck. It wasn’t easy to rouse my sleepy self but the steadiness of keeping rhythms, no matter what, has deepened in me. It was a gift to be away from home and endeavoring to not squander a moment. However, not a lot of words were written except for some scribbles in my journal.

Then my guys went camping and this was the first time I had more than an hour in our home alone since March. I adore my people but I crave silence and solitude and they know it. The anticipation of words and fear of none appearing were my companions. I have learned and this time was no exception, the words come but not on command. It takes time to surrender to silence and slow the pleading pulse of anticipation. 

Ever land on the most brilliant idea when soaped up in the shower without a pen at hand? Being silent allowed me to hear again and mostly when I wasn’t thinking about writing. 

Since March, I have asked God to entrust me with words like He gave manna to the Israelites in the wilderness. I am learning to trust He will give me just enough words for each week. Although I now have a page full of bullet points, I know all the thoughts could turn into a solitary post. It’s disappointing as I long to be “ahead” but it’s truly the way of the Master to dispense what I need. I can view this as crumbs when in reality it is a basketful of bread, broken with plenty to share.

We live in an upside-down world.  It’s difficult to behold beauty but also stare straight into the realities of despair and heartbreak. My nasturtiums have been growing along our fence with gusto with flowers erupting in colors beyond the typical yellows and oranges. But this week, I turned over a few leaves, only to find tightly affixed black dotted clusters of bugs. I know these pesky bugs from past seasons and can never rid my plants of them before they choke out life. I have two options. I can ignore the bugs pretending they don’t exist until they spread to every plant, creating mass casualties. Or I can gently remove the infected leaves and in some cases plants, protecting the healthy ones.

I am fighting for joy in the midst of despair and wading through misinformation. I am choosing to not ignore the brutal parts of life and doing what I can do when life feels out of control. Sometimes it is simply to take a deep breath, whisper a prayer, and unclench my jaw and hands. I look to the shades of my flowers knowing there are forces that can and at times want to assault my joy and stability. I will enjoy them at the moment without fear and obsessing about what might be on the underside.

I am back to living with my people again and as Oregon has declared, this will be the way for quite a while. This wasn’t a surprise but being refreshed helped me to surrender to this sustained reality.  I needed time alone however it is a mistake to believe I can’t find solitude when my home is inhabited by others. I just need to be a bit more creative.

My challenge to you is to look for patches of solitude this week. Here are some ideas to help fuel your creativity.

  • Get up early and watch the sunrise.
  • Stay up late and stargaze.
  • Watch less news.
  • Hold your phone less.
  • Watch a butterfly or a bee. 
  • Close your eyes. If you fall asleep, you needed a deeper rest.
  • It bears repeating, take a nap.
  • Pick one hour each day or even 15 minutes to simply do nothing. Let your mind wander. Allow the silence to offer a surprise landing of thoughts or ideas revealed.
  • Walk around your yard or garden. Don’t water, prune, pull a weed, or even harvest. Simply marvel at creation and hear the sound of your footsteps, the birds of the air, and the sound of your breath enlarging and also softening.
  • Seek ladybugs. Number the dragonflies.
  • Sit and watch the moon rise. In fact, make it a point to see every phase of the moon this month.
  • Blow bubbles and watch each one pop. Muse about how our days are like bubbles, fleeting, yet beautiful and full of wonder. Marvel how at any age, bubbles never cease to bring a smile and cause us to look up.
  • Sit in your favorite chair inside or outside with a frosty beverage and just be wonderful you.

Fill each day with the essentials and plenty of margins to be still and quiet. 

*****

May each day provide moments of quiet.

May we access our need for silence and solitude.

May we release the uncontrollable and embrace wonder.

May we fight for joy especially on days where it feels like we are in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 

May we know and believe, whatever the cluster of pesky bugs in our lives, it will not dismantle or steal our joy.

May we be like bubbles to one another.

 

messengers

messengers

wp-1587942175475304298148.jpg

We had a rough week. 

It wasn’t related to the Coronavirus, but yet it was. The parameters established, although critical, can make situations more challenging and ladle stress on top of what already resided. The details aren’t important because I am confident at this crisis point, we can all fill in the blank regarding a hard circumstance compounded because of new limitations.

Today is better.

This past week when I was feeling a bit fragile and shaky, I paid particular attention to the words  read and heard. There seemed to be a repetition of words as well as harmony of theme.  I would have missed the impact of these words if I hadn’t decided to slow down, shunning stress and anxiety.

I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe what some might call a coincidence is simply a messenger or an invitation to pay attention. 

Over the years, I have practiced lectio divina which means divine or spiritual reading. Now before these Latin words cause you to glaze over, think of these two words as describing the posture you could take while listening to a friend. 

Imagine a friend sharing a piece of wisdom or insight. You listen and mull the words over in your mind. This is possible because you have made time, no hurrying or rushing to the next appointment.  You ask your friend to utter the words again and once again you listen, lingering over the words to see if they take on any new meaning. Without fear of redundancy or seeing rolling eyes, you ask your dear friend to say the words once more, because these are good words.  Your friend smiles, speaks the words aloud and now the conversation begins.

In lectio divina, you are the one who speaks the words aloud. You are the one who mulls and reflects and turns the words and phrases upside down until you are right side up. You are the one who initiates conversation with your Maker.

So many spoken words surround us on a given day. News reports, bad news, phone calls, words during a meeting, kids bickering over the remote control, or simply the people in your home talking loudly. 

How often do you read aloud, softly, and slowly?

When was the last time you heard words spoken over yourself, in your voice?

 What if you paused and considered what these particular words could teach or guide you on this particular day?

What if instead of reading words quickly and moving to the next task, you allowed yourself to linger over words over, over, and over again? 

How many epiphanies have been missed because of refusing to slow down and sit with words?

 Perhaps you might exit the time of lectio divina with a lighter heart, a new resolve, or with renewed hope. 

My invitation to you is to try lectio divina. 

I will guide you.  

Last week, I kept stumbling across two scriptures and a very well-known prayer. I heard the verses on podcasts and read them in books. The prayer was repeatedly posted by attendees in the chatbox of my Weight Watchers virtual meeting. Go figure.
I tend to rush over passages I know quite well. But when I read the words out loud and without hurrying, I uncover unmined gems.

Below I have included the prayer and the two scriptures I found great comfort in this past week.

Choose one.

Following these three options, I adapted the practice of lectio divina for you and have provided additional resources at the end of this post.

 

/1/

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

 

/2/

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4: 6-7 (NLT)


/3/

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Matthew 6:25-34 (NLT)

*****

  • Find a quiet place. I realize this could be a challenge during this time. 
  • If you desire, a pen and journal can be helpful to have on hand to jot down any thoughts which arise. 
  • Take a few breaths as you anticipate the gift of this invitation. 

 

Read the passage slowly and aloud.

What words or phrases stand out?
What do you sense God is saying to you through these words or phrases?

Take a moment to listen.

 

Read slowly and aloud a second time.

From those words and phrases, is there an invitation God is extending to you?
How do these words or phrases apply to your life right now?

Take a moment to listen.

 

Read slowly and aloud for a final time.

Journal your thoughts, questions, concerns, resistance, desire to change directions, or simply speak these words and have a conversation with God.
What do you need from God?
What can you thank Him for?
What are you grateful for?

 

Well done, friend. 

You can practice with any passage of your choosing. I hope you will.

Keep listening.

*****

May we experience familiar words in new and fresh ways this week.
May the loss of familiar ways draw us closer to God who longs to settle our spirits.
May we breathe and allow our spoken voice to bring new revelation or gentle comfort.
May we slow down and give ourselves permission to be soothed by our Maker.

 

More about lectio divina.

I have used this journal over the years.

This book.