Of Father & Son

They amble down the beach – he, tall, dark hair,

broad of shoulder. Son, little – trit-trotting in front

curly locks tousle his brow. Father, son, little, big

mesmerized together – spotting a shell here,

a tide pool there – stopping – bending low – gathering

memories among the suds left from the

last whitecaps.

Suddenly he’s done – the little one

arms outstretched runs back to Father’s open arms.

Father hoists him high, then higher still – mounts him on his

shoulder. Now son is above and beyond Him- yet

sustained – grounded – carried by the Father’s strong frame.

The famed career dims in the glory of Father and son

together gathering memories. It dims in the joy of prodigy

seated high – this namesake; one that will carry on

long after Father is gone. It dims in the lore of family,

this friend conceived by his sweat and blood; one who will always

come back the way eddies circle and tides race back to deserted inlets,

who will love you, not despite your idiosyncrasies, but because of them.

One isn’t a Father without a son – this coursing desire of humanity. Is that

why God created me? Without sons He would be Majestic,

Creator, Redeemer. But not Father. And so he bears children to

stop. bend low. collect memories. To share love in dna. To go

beyond His footsteps, but be carried by His frame.

He, tall, dark haired, broad shouldered,

Son, lithe, tubsy, blond

trit-trotting across white sands, collecting moments

among the shells.

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The Worser Choice

To be a brick,

                A hard cold brick,

                A stoic brick with no heart or soul.

Or a lump of clay,

                A crumpled lump,

                 A crushed and dashed and broken lump,

                But a shard of pulsing clay.

Three E’s: A Teacher’s Dilemma

In the classroom one strives to maximize excellence, efficiency, and education.

 “Today I’m going to tell you about an excellent resource that will enlighten all your writing assignments and expand your vocabulary,” she beamed holding up a three-inch-thick tome. Paging to glad students jaws dropped, amazed at the forty-three options: enraptured, transported, felicitous, gleeful, congenial, ecstatic, cloudless, painless, and on and on. Grins grew as Johnny read: blessed, blissful, content, overjoyed, entranced, delight, satisfaction.

The assignment was then to find three new adjectives to describe a cake, a shoe, and a book. Let’s just say a thesaurus is not efficient, neither is learning to use a thesaurus efficient, albeit more so than learning to use a dictionary. The second hand ticked. The minute hand tocked. Language period rushed to an end. Fascinated, fourth graders stilled pored over the thesaurus. But they had concocted delectable cakes, read medieval books, and wore antiquated shoes. The teacher glowed.

A few weeks later she described another writing project. The students had exactly twenty-five minutes to be traumatized, to dramatize, or create. The minute hand ticked and the second hand tocked. Pencils clicked and erasers scratched.  Then Johnny’s hand waved. “May I use a thesaurus?”

“Absolutely.” She swallowed her chagrin. True to pattern –three descriptive sentences an hour later Johnny’s hand waved again.

When striving for efficient education, do not whisper thesaurus.

The Crisis of One Percent

“Only thirty percent of the U.S. population is eligible to give, and only six percent of those eligible give. If only one percent more would give, there wouldn’t be a blood shortage,” Richard said taping the IV to my wrist.

“If you’ve visited or lived in Europe for a combination of more than five years, the liability of Mad Cow Disease knocks you out for the rest of your life, well, until they find a test for it.” He went on evenly, “The only way to tell if someone has it is to split their skull open and test their brain.”

“You mean an autopsy,” I tried gingerly, not sure whether to gasp or laugh.

“And now they’re believing that it’s genetic, so if it’s in your family history, you’re out of luck to be a donor. Ever. Take a deep breath. Squeeze. Don’t move.” With the deftness of a pro that giant needle hit a vein, unlike the previous two times when the nurses had poked and prodded until we all wondered if that arm thrived, dry.

As the blood ran red, I pulled out McCloskey but he was trite, weighed against heavier lines coursing through my head.  Just one percent would make a difference. Three-hundred-thousand people. Where were they?  Why did I care? Then I realized that I can’t give blood anymore without thinking of my dad. He gave gallons, one life-saving pint at a time. Today he still gives, but they dump it down the drain.T

Dad has been a dutiful donor as far back as I can remember. It was not unusual to see him come home from work sporting a round red and white sticker on his shirt pocket which said something like, ‘Be kind to me, I gave blood today.’ That’s why I thought it normal to give it a try as soon as I was old enough. In God’s sovereignty, this sole habit is why he is still with us. Traveling pastors are hard to catch at home, but Red Cross called one day and true to his appointment he showed up. When the blood slid out thick as pancake syrup, nurses’ eyebrows shot up. “You need to see a doctor. Now.”

Polycythemia Vera was the verdict. A stealthy killer that you often don’t know about until it’s too late. Thankfully we live in an age of modern medicines and ancient tonics, so that Polycythemia Vera can be a condition held in check.

The pint was filled. Six minutes and fifty seconds. “Firm pressure on the swab, arm straight up for thirty seconds.” Just a pint, a mere drop in the pool of humanity. But maybe it will be the drop that gives a second chance. A drop toward the crisis. The crisis that could be staved off by just one percent.

Books

“Books are long enough to change you.”

This quote comes from Randy Alcorn’s blog and he wasn’t sure who said it. Fascinating nevertheless.

At the onset of 2018, The Book Whisperer appeared on my kitchen table one day, like manna fallen from heaven. Thank you, Rachel. It was the shot in the arm I needed to get through cold January, gray February, and muddy March. In The Book Whisperer a teacher tells her story of how she reels her children into the Enchanting Land of Books. And she goes on to say how she reads and reads and reads herself, one challenge being the one-hundred-book-in-a-year challenge. I was swooned and dove in.

At the end of 2018 my list said ninety-nine completely read, four audio books listened to, and fifteen books skimmed or started. Always have more than one on the go. 🙂 Keeps life exciting. And all the ones you didn’t finish at the end of last year just roll onto your 2019 list.

Along the children’s line, I’ll list just a few old favorites:

  1. Amos McGee’s Sick Day
  2. The Mountain That Loved a Bird
  3. Grandpa’s Teeth
  4. Miss Rumphius
  5. Thank-you Mr. Falker
  6. Bread and Butter Indian 
  7. Underground to Canada
  8. Anything by James Herriot
  9. Anything by Jean Fritz
  10. Most books by Patrica Polacco
  11. Most books by Eric Carle
  12. Books illustrated by Barbara Cooney

A few new ones that I’ve stumbled across this past year and added to my favorites:

  1. Millions of Cats
  2. We Were Tired of Living in a House
  3. Blueberries for Sal

It’s hard to categorize favorites among the others I read so I’ll just list the best ones in no specific order other than alphabetized – CDO bites sometimes. These stories have grown my heart, painted my perspective, and changed my world-view. I am not the same.

  1. Anything but Simple-Lucy’s Memoir
  2. Clutched in the Talons
  3. Gladys Aylward-Missionary to China
  4. God I Love
  5. Not Without My Daughter
  6. One Child by Torey Hayden
  7. One Thousand Miles to Freedom
  8. Stolen Life
  9. The Book Whisperer
  10. The Heavenly Man
  11. The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life
  12. The Robe
  13. The Treasure Principle
  14. Titanic Survivor
  15. Turn Your Love On
  16. Unseen, The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to be Noticed
  17. Wasting Time With God
  18. Wounded Trust

Social media is rewiring our brains, shrinking us with frighteningly short attention spans. It is chilling to think how this will affect our children. In her recent book,  Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World (Harper, 2018) MaryAnne Wolf says, “We, their guides, do not realize the insidious narrowing of our own thinking, the imperceptible shortening of our attention to complex issues, the unsuspected diminishing of our ability to write, read or think past 140 (now 280) characters. We must all take stock of who we are as readers, writers, and thinkers.”

Challenge for 2019: set your phone aside, pick up a good book, and start inhaling.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Reading makes a full man, meditation a profound man, and discourse a clear man.”

What books do you suggest for the rest of us?

Light-bulb Moment

I Have –

What a billion people want.

A circle of friends – close enough that we sit and laugh one moment and the next share hard stuff with tears washing our faces!

 

I Have –

What a trillion people madly pursue every day.

Peace. An incredible gift that can’t be bought or earned or achieved – only accepted.

 

I Have –

What everyone on this broken planet needs—a heart washed by the blood of Jesus. Redeemed from Satan’s grip.

 

I Have –

What all mankind hopes is true.

The promise of life – forever.

 

Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

Honesty: Terrifying and Life-Giving

Some people are terrified of beauty. They don’t know how to hold it, nurture it, or wear it. Others are very uncomfortable with simplicity. They collect and hoard and stash. They layer and rearrange and gather. Still others fear closeness. Invade my space bubble and I will bite you.

I am scared of honesty and loneliness. What if you dump me when I tell you what I really think, feel, and am? Because today I told a friend that I’m done being single. A number of the past days have been engulfed in a haze like the fog that enshrouds Botetourt County on a humid summer morning. Don’t even warn me that I may be in this same classroom eleven years from now.

Enter Author of Truth. Jesus Christ. I have also found incredible freedom in honesty. Honesty with God makes me intensely grateful for Grace. Without grace, there are mornings when I couldn’t unbury these bones and face the drama. Pillows and eiderdown provide a much safer cocoon than forty degrees and a gusty chill.

Humankind has been hiding ever since Genesis 3. Alas. This fear of honesty is not a new fear. May I dare say, I’m not even alone in my fear. What will you say some day when you stand before Almighty God and realize with a flash that you lived your whole life a sham, a cover-up, pretending to be somebody you weren’t? Or trying to outdo all the Jones’. Trying to hide one talent and portray another. Friends help us incredibly in this onslaught of fears. I trust you have one such warrior beside you. One friend in particular has told me essentially, ‘Stop portraying the super-woman image.’ Thanks.

Now lest you beat someone up with brutal honesty, know, I am speaking of kind, refreshing, soul-cleansing honesty. We tend to assume others intuitively know our needs or desires. We may become miffed or even provoked when an ‘obvious’ need is completely missed, especially when missed by that particular person that we expected could meet it. What if in gracious humility we would acknowledge our needs and allow others to come alongside us and help us. What if we wouldn’t be so quick to pretend we don’t have any fears or need any help? Danny Silk talks more about this in his book Keep Your Love On!

Almost every Bible has a blank page or two at the beginning or end-great spaces to jot down life-anchors; this is one of mine, Freedom: Nothing to prove, Nothing to fear, Nothing to lose.

What if facing your fears is one of the most life-giving steps you could take? What if a terrifying risk is the leap into glorious freedom! Jesus talked about it in John 12 with the example of a corn seed dying down in the dark dirt: the way terrifying death births life, loneliness bears fruit, serving Him extracts the Father’s honor.

Fragile Morning Mist

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Fragile Morning Mist

Whispy and gentle

Giving one more soothing kiss

To the earth.

For twon’t be long ‘ere the

Sun in glorious blaze

Bursts ore the horizon

And shatters morning’s haze!

Can a body e’en feel gloomy

While the sunbeams dance and glitter

Turning every crystal dewdrop to

A million silvery shimmers?

Ah – I cry no –

With the Psalmist who penned –

That Orange Orb comes forth

As a strong man to run.

For e’en as the sun

Beckons sleeper and dreamer

I stretch out my arms enraptured in warmth.

I’m filled with a song

Energy invigorating

A zeal wells up

I’ve been touched from above.

For not only the sun warms my soul

But the Son!

The Giver and Maker, Redeemer of Life.

Oh, let’s praise Him

Each critter

Each creature

Each child

Oh praise the Son Glorious

Who reigns High Above!

 

Dreams Are Free?

If anything would be attainable, If you could go anywhere, If you would be given a blank check, what would it read?

My bucket list includes…

  • Host an exchange student
  • Be a foster mom
  • Adopt a bunch of children from Asia
  • Get a degree in writing
  • Publish a book
  • Grow a big garden
  • See the Grand Canyon and West Coast, USA
  • Tour Switzerland
  • Ride a gondola in Venice
  • Take my nieces and nephews with me on a mission trip
  • Teach ESL in Iraq
  • Travel to Greece
  • Buy my own little place with lots of perennials

When we stop dreaming, we stop living. It’s really scary to be at a point in life when you feel like you’ve lived up most of your dreams and you wonder now what. I’ve been there.

We need to keep on dreaming, hoping, pursuing, imagining goodness. It’s the pieces of heaven that are imprinted in our hearts I think – this desire for goodness and wholeness and perfect happiness.

But dreams actually cost. A lot. You exchange money for traveling, energy and love for relationships, sweat and tears for a garden and that may produce nothing but goldenrod and morning glory. Have you accepted the opportunity to exchange quietness for fullness, aloneness for refreshment, darkness for wisdom?

How often too are we living our dreams and don’t realize it? This struck me the other day; one of my dreams once upon a time was to have a house and work some sort of job so that I could also house several other girls, in a communal sort of living; I’ve been living this for the past four years now. It’s a lot tougher than I ever thought. Friendships richer, food sweeter, and lonely moments deeper. It’s called real life.

Dreams usually realize themselves in gritty overalls vs. pastel ballet gowns, dirty silverware and splattered windows, plastic cups vs. goblets. Ants and weeds vs. red tomatoes. Misunderstandings vs. close friendships.

Dreams shape us. We move toward the mental images we have before us. Our perceptions, expectations, our goals and desires motivate us. The lack thereof or the bitter taste of disappointment can leave us depressed. In this broken world, keep dreaming. Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise – think on these things.

May we extend more kindness, more patience, more understanding and carry each other’s fragile dreams like little candles, with a hand held beside the flame to keep the wind from blowing it out. What’s on your bucket list?