Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

 It’s here.  Eclipse Day 2017!

If I didn’t know better and only watched the news today, I’d think all of humanity had finally reconciled in a bi-partisan effort to enjoy the temporary blocking out of the sun.

Darkness has a funny way of uniting us humans.

Today, on this rare beautiful day, we will be as one,  in our excitement to watch this solar event.

There’s something special happening here; we can’t quite name it or put a finger on it, but you know it for sure.  You can feel it

 For a solid minute, possibly as long as two minutes and 41 seconds in some places, we are going to forget that we are white or black or any other color people with so many grievances with those others.   We’re not going to be focused on our pasts.  We’re not going to be looking down at screens or looking within ourselves, replaying our tired soundtracks of our hopelessness–our perpetual victimhood to the circumstances we surely don’t have anything to do with, right?

No.  In this glorious moment, we are going to break with tradition and be looking outward and upward.  We will see human faces, not glass screens.  Instead of eyes on screens of glass, we will put screens of blackness over our eyes simply to protect them from the sheer beautiful brilliance of light and solar coronas.

We feel it.  Our hearts tingle in anticipation.  Our ‘to do’ lists will wait.  For many of us, even our jobs will wait.  Our hunger pains and base desires and anger—it will all wait.

For a single moment in time, our divided humanity will be united, as we witness this rarest of rare beauties.

We’ll be Staring at the Sun.  “Hoping we won’t go blind.”

Bono sings it best in this amazing song by U2.

Intransigence is all around

What is intransigence?  The inability to change one’s views or come to agreement.

That’s us, my friends.

Watch the news on any given night.  We are divided on everything!!   TOTALLY!

 Bonnie Tyler was more prophet then love-abandoned when she wrote “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.   In her loneliness, she really magnified the problem of the human heart:

It’s a heart of darkness.  On any given day it’s a dark nasty, empty void waiting to be filled with something.  It seems to be an endless gaping hole that can’t be satisfied, no matter what it’s filled with.  And boy can it ignore those whom we love and exact revenge on those whom we don’t understand.

TOTALITY

 

 Totality is the whole of something.  Some of us have allowed the whole of our hearts, or close to it, to be eclipsed by things like:

  • Anger
  • Close-mindedness
  • Hatred
  • Revenge
  • Hopelessness
  • Despair
  • Self-centeredness

Can I tell you the truth about something?

This is not who you are!

Deep down, you know it.  At least I hope you do.

What if division of people because of their colors, beliefs and preferences, and heaven forbid, their thinking and ideas was actually just true diversity?!  

Even despicable thoughts can and do die a natural death….IF:

We don’t feed them.

That’s powerful truth friends!

Next time you feel compelled to change somebody’s mind by shaming them on social media or arguing your point to the bitter end because it is “clearly the right one”, what if you simply listened?  Try listening for the same amount of time an eclipse at it’s longest would last.  Just ponder for a moment.  You don’t have to agree.

Maybe you don’t have to be the prosecutor of their truth or the defender of yours. 

“Yes, but!!!!!” I can hear you say.  “WE HAVE TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST EVIL!”

This is true, but take a breath.  Ask yourself, “Is this true evil or do I just disagree?”  If and when we do speak against true evil (and we must), we must take great strides to make sure we don’t behave the same as, or worse become that which we are calling out as evil.

This special moment in time today during the eclipse will never repeat again.

Even if you are blessed to live to see another eclipse, this moment will not repeat.

Just like all our moments.  They are each rare diamonds in a universe of stars.  And yet we cast them out like garbage all the time, with the things we say, the resentments we harbor, and the things we do or worse–things we fail to do.  Things like gestures of kindness.  Words like saying “I’m sorry.”  Moments of love we do not live and miss in real time, because we our so engrossed online or stewing in our own darkness.

We must look up, not down.

We must look out, not in.

Because after the light that has always been there is totally eclipsed by pure darkness, the miracle moment that we are taking on faith WILL happen:

THE LIGHT WILL BE UNVEILED!

 

We are taking on faith that this darkness won’t last forever.

Our proof that restoration of ourselves, others, and the earth is possible will be revealed today.

Because even with our darkened hearts, bloody and bruised from past hurts and disappointments, the part of our heart that beats and sustains our very lives, still hopes.

It hopes, despite……

Despite all that holds you back

Despite all who’ve hurt you,

Despite…well, just all of it.

Eclipsed.

It’s such a miraculous thing.

May love and light fill every space of who you are on this most magnificent of days.

May you choose to see today.  May you choose to let go.  And live!   U2areloved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Panel U2 pic for shirt

Bono (Chicago 2015), Liz (After 4 Chicago SOI 2015 shows!), and more Bono.

Bono! It’s your birthday.  Since we’re born exactly a week apart, I’d like to ask you some questions–one bull to another.  As we U2 fans prepare for the Joshua Tree 40 tour, I have some questions I’d love to ask you.  What is it like:

Maybe you didn’t ask for this much, but God gave it to you anyway. This voice—this voice that gives power to the silent, the abused, the ignored, the desperate. This magical voice that entertains those who can afford it—provoking and comforting, all the while, yet always on the move.

We hear you between the lines! We are getting the message. Even as you continue to entertain us as the years pass, we too are changing; ourselves, and the world around us.   We can CREATE change. There is true beauty in being able to do that. The divinely-inspired do more then just sit still.  We’re fighting for love and peace too, even as we do battle to settle the wars that rage within ourselves.  Your music helps us to be gentle with ourselves. Thank you for that.

You have a vast and diverse fan base.   Sometimes we may just appear as just a bunch of idolaters.  I dispute that.  If that’s all we were, then we’re all just reduced to a bunch of noise–people who don’t think or care, and it’s only all about you. But you know us better than that. It’s so much more. Because of your humility, we see past the rock star. We see a mirror; we see ourselves–#strongerthanfear; we too can be brave enough to be a kinder person, to be more tolerant and to help others.   Your music and your heart unites those of various faiths, it smashes barriers.  In the music of U2, we learn to see and hear the world differently. Thank you.

Your voice and music—this blessed gift of soul and sound, is the soundtrack that activates our inspiration and creativity too! Your music empowers our resolve. It gets us through when our hearts break, and it makes the good moments super amazing!

We know where to find you, when you’re not around. We’ll meet you in the sound!

Keep going Bono (and the rest of U2!). Keep creating song and art. Keep talking to world leaders and business leaders and everyday people too. May you always keep your heart and mind open as you always have. May you always find time to put your family and faith and your well-being before the rest of us. Trust in the God who gave a short man a mighty big megaphone! Make a joyful noise until your last breath and together, we’ll walk this magical journey of life as we each  find our way home.

And live. Just be. Until you give it all away.

Happy Birthday and love from one fan, as well as the rest of us.  Today, we remember you.  U2areloved

FOR U2 FANS:  Please contribute to Bono’s annual “Build a Well in Africa” fund.  This is a cause near and dear to his heart!

ALMA antennas under the Milky Way

  • Have you ever wondered if God is real?
  • Have you ever wondered if your prayers are heard?
  • Have you ever wondered if your dreams, your hopes, your deepest longings really will come true?
  • Have you ever begged to be spared from a certain suffering, but then you weren’t?
  • Did you ever have moments or days or seasons in your life that were totally beyond your control?

Chances are, if you’re human, you can most likely answer YES to the above questions.

Life can be so beautiful. It’s full of amazing moments: The birth of our children. The day we made eternal promises and said “I do” and “Forever”. The day we accomplished something so amazing, we surprised even ourselves. The day we looked out to the horizon and cried because what we saw was simply beyond words; it was indescribably beautiful. You wanted to just freeze time and stay in this place forever. And that’s always when the first stab of pain hits you. Because you know you simply can’t. Nothing here lasts forever.

When I was a child, I thought like a child. Kind of like Margaret of “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret”. I had the same prepubescent worries as she did. Will I ever even need a bra? Will I eventually become a woman in every way? Will a boy even like me….ever?  Does God exist or care about me?   Like Margaret, I wondered where is God more likely to hang? A synagogue? A cathedral?  A mountain top? At the beach?

But those thoughts passed, as did those days. As a child, you can’t even see yourself as a grown up, when you don’t have to feel so awkward or get your feelings hurt so much. We were young. We were naive. We didn’t yet know what we do now: Those were the best days.

Life would get more complicated, time would march forward whether we were ready or not, for what was headed our way. We were still at the beginning of our journey. We still had more hurt to go.

Sometimes parents divorced. Sometimes they died.   Friends moved away.   We outlived our favorite pets. First boyfriends or girlfriends finally arrived on the scene. But they quickly departed too, taking the first of many bites to come out of our vulnerable hearts. Sometimes we moved away or our friends did. Some friends died inexplicably young. In less than a decade we transitioned from girls and boys to women and men. By the time we turned our tassel, we realized some truths:

  • Life isn’t always fair.
  • The hard work of our lives isn’t over just because we graduated, it was merely beginning.
  • I’m not sure if I’m ready to be who I’m supposed to be.

We continued to learn more. We worked. We said I do and we had babies—babies who grew from toddlers to little kids to teenagers to adults almost as fast as one of those rotating doors in a hotel lobby.   From band-aids on boo- boos to full blown medical emergencies where lives are on the line, the days passed. From seeing many dreams realized and some crashed—all these things happened too.

We went to countless weddings, family barbecues and gatherings, and funerals. Two thirds of them were fun and full of promise. The other third, the funerals, many of which were beautiful, never got easier. They only got more frequent. That too made our hearts heavy. We knew where this is all headed.

Which brings me to the point we all ponder in life, especially in times of crisis? Are you there God? It’s me. It’s you. It’s all of us as humanity, but it’s each of us individually and we want to know are you there? Are you aware of me, in this moment?

It’s the question people struggle with at their core, until they finally decide to choose. Even if you make no choice as to what or whom you believe in, you have made a choice, if only to stay grounded in ambiguity, unsureness, maybe even anxiety and insecurity.

Don’t get me wrong. Believers struggle too. But deep down they know. It’s the essence of faith. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the being certain of that which we do not see.

Faith is truly a tightrope walk. It’s just like life—trying to find balance and not lose your head, especially when you are way out there, fairly far from the gravity of comfort zone, security, familiarity, easy street.   And yet you know, there is a safety net below. Should you fall, you’ll be caught before hitting bottom. It just doesn’t look like it. Or feel like it. You have to get your head and heart in alignment with a thing called trust.

God is like that. He is real. He is here. He is there. He is everywhere.   He sent his Son Jesus to catch us like a safety net, even when we’re way up(or out) there!

Each of us are so precious to him. He knows when we hurt, or fall, are sick, are weak, or when we lose, or succumb, or waver, or any other weakness as defined by us. But He knows differently; something we often can’t wrap our head around: His love is perfected in our weakness. We just have to be the willing Captain of the vessel called Self that will allow him to travel with us, in us, and pass through us in order to change our destination, and thus destiny by simply saying, not my will, but yours.

Jesus said in this world, we’re going to have some troubles and he was by no means exaggerating! But he also said to take heart, for he has overcome the world.   Every time I hear that, I rejoice a little more inside. I reclaim the parts of my heart that which is unfair or unbearable or unexplainable tries to conquer. The truth gets etched a little deeper each time. Because it frees me:

  • From having to have all the answers.
  • From being responsible for fixing that which I don’t have the power to do.
  • From focusing on why (the unfair/hard/unexplainable) of pain, and instead focus on the who I can trust with all this (God/Jesus).

We are not invisible to God. And although the universe is a fairly big place (science can’t even agree on where/if it ends and how long it’s been around), we are by no means small. We are not insignificant in God’s eyes.

We can look from the most powerful telescope billions of light years away and all we see are dots. But God can look across space and time and see us, every bit of us—our tears and our dreams-and all He can see are stars. We are His star, the crown jewel, the masterpiece of His creation.   Whether we are searching outward as far as our eye can see, or inward, as deep as our heart can bare, our heart beats strongest when we choose to simply be still and know He is there.

 

God is so big, He is real, and is involved in the details of our lives.   Verses (promises) that inspired this story:  Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Hebrews 11:1, 1 Corinthians 13:11 John 16:33, Ephesians 2:10, Psalm 46:10

Books I’d recommend to anyone who is searching:Purpose Driven Life

Search for Significance

Seagulls

“Sleep tonight.  And may your dreams be realized.”  U2- MLK

       What is it?  You know what I’m talking about.  That thing you just can’t have?  Most people have something.  That thing. 

What is it?  Who is it?   Is it a place in time?  Is it an attribute such as being thinner, taller, or smarter?   Is it wanting to make real a memory of what once was and will never be again?  Is it a certain success?  Is it a conquering of something that plagues you or accomplishing a quest that drives you?  Is it a specific feeling, a way of being loved, respected, or admired?  Is it something you never had, but can taste vividly in your mind but can’t seem to grasp or make happen in real life?

Is it obvious to those who know you?  Or do you keep it hidden in a secret, safe place? Is it readily attainable, or frustratingly elusive?  Is it realistic?

Does it mean you have to change?  Or does it mean you have to change your circumstances?  Perhaps you first have to change your perspective.  Maybe you’ll have to change the way your structure your life.  Maybe you’ll have to increase focus and implementation your intentionsless dreaming, more doing.

Maybe there is a reason you don’t have it.  Perhaps it would harm you.  Or destroy you.  Or mislead you.  Or deceive or confuse you.  Or to come to you for a time, only to leave you wanting it more than you do now, an ultimate abandonment.  Perhaps you aren’t ready for it.  Perhaps it’s not the good thing you think it is.

Life is so hard sometimes.   When it is the hardest, it’s hard to be satisfied right here, at this moment in time, with THIS life.  

We learn at an early age that we are born to die.  We don’t always have the luxury of infinite time here to craft life the way we desire it to be.   We’re bombarded with media and messages on how to dress, act, speak, behave, work, look, love, and live in order to finally be able to get it.

But sometimes you just won’t.  You can’t.  And you don’t.   Perhaps there is an internal reason you can’t or won’t and you know you have to make really hard changes to make it happen.  Or maybe it’s external, such as timing, or something even bigger:  God’s will.

That’s a hard one.  Why is it when you do everything to make it happen, it sometimes doesn’t?  Why would God hold back on something you know to be good for you?  A source of happiness for you?  A completeness of your soul?

     Because maybe it’s not about you.  Ouch!

It’s true.    Life is not always about me, and what I want.   The pain comes in knowing you’ll need to figure out how to live joyfully without it.    

        Many of us walk around with a certain hole in our soul, but I believe those that overcome, even better—they thrive in the midst of adversity or even the subtle continuity of specific tribulations, are governed by a higher law. 

Grace.  The law of God’s unspeakable goodness is at work for you, and within you.  Grace is knowing it’s all good, or at least has the potential to be used for good in your life or others.  It’s all going to be okay because your strength doesn’t depend on you, but instead flows through you from a higher power.   Not getting everything we want, or even a specific thing we want never has the power to disappoint or destroy us, once we understand we are already gracefully loved.

When we frame our desires and wants thru the lens of knowing that we are already loved by an all-knowing, all-seeing God who already knows our deepest longings, we find REST.  We TRUST as we wait, and as we move forward, we can choose contentment as our perspective and feel joyful as we go about our lives.  Even when we don’t get what we want or as we wait for it until we do.

“We are homesick most for the places we have never known.”
Carson McCullers

 “I don’t know what they are called, the spaces between seconds– but I think of you always in those intervals.”
Salvador Plascencia, The People of Paper

“There is a space between man’s imagination and man’s attainment that may only be traversed by his longing.”
Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

 

 

U2 – “No Ordinary Love” — Video Download for U2.com subscribers.

Yep!  I’m a huge U2 fan. Me and a few other million friends.   They’re an extraordinary band not only because their melodies so easily latch on to our auditory taste buds, but more importantly their lyrics speak to a  much deeper place in our soul.  U2’s  music evokes memory and dreams and hopes.  They aren’t the pop flavor of the day, they speak messages of wisdom, if we have ears willing to hear.   A vision beyond visibility becomes a possibility when one is appropriately inspired.

I’m so looking forward to hearing all the songs that will ultimately comprise the soundtrack of Mandela:  Long Walk to Freedom  Not only is Mandela a mentor and inspiration for Bono personally, but also he holds a special place in people’s hearts all over the world who have seen or experienced or are touched by suppression, imprisonment, injustice or perhaps are fighting for freedom and human rights.

Even if you’re not a freedom fighter who has taken to the streets, you may be a prayer warrior or encourager  somewhere in the life or lives of those who struggle.  That’s what Jesus did when he read these prophetic words from the book of Isaiah to the people of Nazareth:

“The Lord has put his Spirit in me,
because he appointed me to tell the Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to tell the captives they are free
and to tell the blind that they can see again.
God sent me to free those who have been treated unfairly.  Luke 4:18

I have a friend who for a long span of time wasn’t free.   For a time he was held captive internally by choices, as well as externally by unjust circumstances.   So as I wrote to the face of a friend I’ve never met until very recently, I reminded him that “You don’t have to walk around outside to taste freedom.”  You can get free inside first.  In fact, it’s probably a good idea.   And just because there are so many things you can’t see at this time, doesn’t mean you can’t have a vision of what life will look like soon, very soon.

This is seeing:   Believing what right now you can only hope for and resting confidently in assurance that God will use your hour of trial or suffering and turn it into something beautiful, or redemptive.  But it requires something of you first:

No Ordinary Love

Extraordinary love requires faith, being confident in that which you hope for and being sure of what you can not see.  (Hebrews 11:1) That’s no ordinary love.  Extraordinary love also requires sacrifice; it’s going to cost you something you value: your time, your money, your safety, your reputation, your safety net  or perhaps your freedom.  In some cases, even your very life.

“We can’t fall any further if we can’t feel ordinary love.”   Show someone in need some love today.     Take the plunge.  Give until it hurts.  Give with all you’ve got.  And even when you’re drowning in your own personal ocean of adversity and difficulty, remember you were loved first by no ordinary love,  so this pain you feel from time to time is only your heart cracking around the hard places until it becomes smooth as polished precious stones.

Don’t give up.  Look up.  Reach higher.  Assist the poor.  Minister to the hurting.  Forgive what seems unforgivable.   Show love in the name of freedom, in the name of justice and mercy, in the name of compassion, in the name of righteousness and then wait, and watch what God will do.   Perhaps if we each can show love to even just one, especially the difficult one, God can transform the ordinary to extraordinary.

May you find ways to show love today and be joyful in the anticipation of what God can do with just a bit of ordinary love.

POST SCRIPT 12/06/2013:  I started this entry about a week ago.  But I didn’t finish.  God had other plans.  I saw some miracles this week and witnessed first hand just how fast God can transform an isolated  captive person into a person being released into freedom and into loving capable hands.  ALL THIS, on the day Nelson Mandela has passed.  The world lost a true hero, a compassionate soul, and someone who fully understood  this truth: Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.(1 Peter 4:8)  Rest in peace Nelson Mandela.  And welcome home too.  You leave a legacy of powerful truth spoken in love for the rest of us to aspire to.

Allow me to close with some wisdom of Nelson Mandela, who capably showed us light can chase away the dark and love is stronger than hate:

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” —Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” —Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Where is the Love IMG_8531 1

A royal baby was born today.  A baby that will undoubtedly grow up in a fishbowl, his every move fawned over, analyzed, photographed, and reported as if it were earth-shattering. He will have loving parents to dote over him, a staff to serve him, a press that hounds him, and a fan base that will swell and wane over and over like the tide of the ocean.  He will one day rule, if only in the hearts of those that put people on pedestals simply because of pedigree.  Will he know what it means to suffer?

Also today, across the world and across two oceans, in Syria, a nameless unphotographed baby, like countless others before him this month, is born in a refugee camp, drawing his first breaths in the middle of conflict, a deadly war.  He will be on the move soon enough, already fleeing and hiding and struggling to live before he ever learns to smile.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed; it is only the faintest of hopes.  Hundreds of thousands of children sleep tonight in a tent on dirty ground not knowing whether tomorrow they eat or not, move or stay, live or die.   Families are broken, scattered, displaced, diminished, and shattered by wars they did not start and have no power to end. This baby of no recognition and no worldly significance,  whose sole purpose it seems is just to survive—will he feel loved? 

In Afghanistan, a village of young girls risk disfiguration by acid being thrown on them simply because they wish to go to school in secret.  An eleven year old girl in Yemen begs for death rather than being forced to marry.  In Thailand, hundreds of thousands of under age children are abused every year in childhood sex-trafficking and prostitution.  In America’s capital, more than 40% of high school kids don’t graduate.  Granite columns and indestructible walls meters thick fill up the entire epicenter of capital landscape, yet kids fall thru a broken system of family, culture, and community like water thru a sieve.    In Africa, hunger, AIDS, and death by Malaria still exists despite decades of humanitarian aid both government and private.  Why?

The world is on fire because we are at war.  There are wars on drugs.  There are wars on women and children.   There is war between social classes and political parties.   We are at war and we fight. We fight over land, food, politics, possessions, principals, philosophies, lifestyles, religious belief systems.  We fight over what is true.  Often we just fight, seemingly for no reason at all.  We fight because our rage over takes us.  Our inner evil is compelled to extinguish that which opposes us or our right-ness.   We are at war within ourselves as we easily love one person or group of people and detest another individual or group.  We exchange our peace, our righteousness, for a need to be right, a need to own or control, a need to possess or win.  We exchange love for a lie.

When you look at the world, what is it that you see?

There is so much fighting, and evil, and brutality, and pain and so much needless suffering.  And yet there are those small voices, the small minorities with limited resources, small hands, big ideas, and bigger hearts that risk death and dying daily, armed with nothing more than a sack cloth of courage and a heart full of faith trying, always trying.  They try desperately to feed the hungry, shelter the orphans, assist the dying, spread words of peace, trying their best to litter humanity with goodness and gentleness and kind deeds.

It is a world of dark and light, of yin and yang, a garden of good and evil.  But these days the weeds are rooting ever deeper, trying desperately to strangle the good fruits of human goodness.   It’s easy to despair as we watch the world around us all ablaze.  It feels as if we are flaming out, we’re burnt out, past the point of being able to care.

I say don’t give in.  Don’t give up.  Don’t ever give up!  Return to love.  Help your neighbor or whoever God puts in your path today.  Write respectful letters to those in power that can make a difference.  Above all, do not remain silent.  Use your voice to point out injustice, and to persuade others.   But then DO SOMETHING!  Use your hands to help others.  Use your mind to stay centered on solutions, not just rattling over the problem.  Find small ways to be the change you wish to see in the world.

We all have the opportunity to be the royal sons and daughters of a higher law, a higher King.  We can discern without diminishing. We can serve with humility.  We can love without limits.   We can rise above the madness.

Feed.   Pray.   Give.   Serve.   Love.

Where is the love?  It’s up to each of us to light the way.

********

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Ephesians 6:12

“This world’s anguish is no different from the love we insist on holding back.”   Aberjhani – “Elemental: The Power of Illuminated Love”

“Peace is the fruit of love, a love that is also justice. But to grow in love requires work — hard work. And it can bring pain because it implies loss — loss of the certitudes, comforts, and hurts that shelter and define us.”   Jean Vanier – “Finding Peace”

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Photos by Liz Gray

When you look at the world
What is it that you see?
People find all kinds of things
That bring them to their knees

U2 – When I Look at the World

      What is it you see and experience that lets you know without a doubt there is God and He is is good and He has given you a beautiful world to experience and enjoy?

       It’s not the big things for me.  It’s so much smaller than that.

       Last week we had an opportunity (third time this summer in fact) to rescue a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest, with some enhanced assistance from my cat that has expert hunting skills.

       Thankfully this bird was not yet bitten, so it had a fighting chance.  I held this baby bird near my heart most of the night, but pretty much anticipated a dead bird by morning.  I alternated holding it and keeping it on a towel wrapped around a hot water bottle.  Around 5 am, I awoke because apparently the bird could now fly.

          Since my phone takes better small pictures, I began clicking as this little fellow (or lassie perhaps)  flew from floor to window ledge to my arms.   After a dozen phone pics, I guess the bird decided to hop on the phone to see what all my fuss was about.  QUICK!  That’s when I ever so carefully walked backwards out of the bathroom, into my bedroom and grabbed my DSLR to get pictures of the bird looking at his own reflection.

       As I did so, I became very aware I was witnessing an amazing moment:

       God puts LIFE everywhere around us; BEAUTY to behold, SOULS to nourish and cherish, and MOMENTS to be aware of and to feel a divine love.

       The rescue business–it’s that thing that tugs at your soul and you beg God:  Please let it be someone else; don’t let it be me. 

     It never works like that.  If you have a heart that loves, you will be called to give, share, pray, serve, sacrifice–because all these things are an extension of love.  Someone or something less fortunate than you is going to be put in your path and you’ll have no choice.  Don’t just see; respond!

       Love until it hurts.

       Love until someone is healed.

       I am a flawed person, but not so much, that I can’t get my hands dirty or wear my heart on my sleeve on occasion.

       And that is the world as seen through my eyes.  You too are loved.

Post script:  This bird was one of the lucky ones we tried to save.   He lived.   He sang his morning song from a branch, until he simply flew away.

paw2013

 Be Yourself

I’ve been struggling with something lately.  It’s made me feel insecure and small and insignificant.

I’ve been seeking validation and confirmation in all the wrong faces and places.  I’ve been allowing what others say or do or don’t say or don’t do to define me.  It’s a hang-up, a bad habit I have.  And it always yields the same result:

An engraved invitation to a party:

THE PITY PARTY

      Have you ever been to one?  Oh they’re fabulous; let me tell you!  No limousines or glamorous gowns or flowing champagne and people to tell you how amazing, how stunningly beautiful, how incredibly talented,  how divinely gifted you are.  No!  You arrive, and you wonder where in the world are all the guests?

   You can almost feel the smirk on an unseen enemy’s faceThis is it.  You realize.  This is your party.  A party with the table all set for one: You!    It’s a lonely party.  There are no gifts or accolades or recognition.

Linda Rondstandt’s Poor Poor Pitiful Me blares in the background.   You begin to doubt everything you’ve ever done or hope to do in the future.  Past accomplishments are but a distant memory.  Hope for the future is a concept belonging to others rather than an assured belief. 

How is it that we can be so hopeful one day and feel in utter despair the next?

I’ll tell you.  We forget who we are.

    The moment we forget that we are created by a loving God who has plans so magnificent, our mind hasn’t even begun to conceive what they are, we fall prey to the schemes of an unseen enemy.  The devil, Satan, self-absorption, bad karma, narcissism; they’re one in the same in my book. When we are the ruler of our own kingdom, we become quickly disillusioned when our “subjects” (those people and circumstances we can’t seem to get control of) disobey or at least, disappoint.

I so know this intellectually.  It’s just my heart that trips me up.  Repeatedly.   See there’s these three things I just keep wanting over and over:

Validation

Admiration

Results to go the way I plan

        We do have to make plans in life.  It’s true, there is no such thing as a plan to fail, only a failure to plan.  But sometimes even the best laid plans are laid to waste if a higher law at work deems it so.

I’m talking about God here.  Yes, sometimes God allows us to fail, to hurt, to be disappointed, to not understand.  Why?  So that we can fall.  Fall on our faces and fall on our knees.  He doesn’t want us to fall prey; He wants us to FALL,  PRAY. 

       Do you ever feel restless  in your faith; anxious in your soul?  Do you have an itch you just can’t scratch?  Do sermons and scripture verses and encouragement from others  just sound like words:  blah, blah, blah, blah?  Do you ever feel misunderstood, abandoned, invisible, and disappointed?

     Not to worry.  It happens.  We are human.  This is the cycle of life.  We get restless and start to feel like there is something more over there!   We get restless and feel like if we only had……………

You fill in the blank.  You know what I’m talking about.  That thing.  That thing that if you could just possess or experience or be than everything would be perfect.  Except that it wouldn’t.

We were born to struggle and to wrestle.  To struggle and wrestle within ourselves, our beliefs, with those in the world, and yes, even with God.  We’re challenged to prove it’s true in that which we think we know.

We don’t have all the answers.  But God does.   I know that in all things a good and loving God is in control.   In His time, and in His Way, he is working out not just my Salvation (in Christ) but also my issues, problems, deepest longings, and dreams. 

How do we get back to true?  How do we turn around?  How do we get better?  How do we heal?

It’s simple, but hard:  We let go and let God.  We struggle to get set free as we realize by letting go, we already are.

You already know this.  I do too.  We just need to be reminded sometimes.

     When you know that you know that you know that you are loved by the Creator of the Universe and He has it all under control , despite your feelings today, He will bring you home, to Him, to the love that He has for you, and He has planted inside you, waiting to be poured out, spilling over the brim, in order to bless others.

     You too are loved.  Believe it.  Now live it. 

 

You rise up early, and go to bed late, and work hard for your food, all for nothing. For the Lord gives to His loved ones even while they sleep. Psalm 127:2 (New Living Version)

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 (NIV)

In my dream I was drowning the sorrows
But my sorrows, they learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me
Spilling over the brim
Waves of regret and waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
You…you said you’d wait
’til the end of the world…..

“Until the End of the World” – U2

Giulia Muraglia FF

PHOTO CREDIT: GIULIA MURAGLIA

What’s your most treasured memory?  The first moment you met someone you love?  A place you stood?  The beginning of something or someone?  A sight forever memorized by your heart?  Perhaps words that were said, spoken, written, or sung that you can’t get out of your head, even if you try?

Time passes and we want to hold on to special memories.   Our material possessions and even our relationships roll in and out of our life like the tide, and most we let go and don’t even know they are gone until something way off in the future triggers a memory:

  • Oh yeah, I had a stuffed bear like that once
  • I haven’t heard this song in years!  It reminds me of….
  • I remember being here as a kid
  • I remember you…..
  • I couldn’t forget_____ if I tried

I recently took the most amazing vacation with my family.  It was six years in the making and our first and only trip as a complete family since my youngest was born seven years ago.   We saved.    We borrowed.  We coordinated work and school schedules for all.    We saw it all, did it all, ate it all, and savored it all.

Along the way I took the next biggest extension of me, beyond my pen; I brought my camera and lens.  Not just any lens, the best lens, a luxury lens I had rented for my best camera in order to preserve these precious memories for time immemorial.

I clicked.  I clicked again and again.  Every beautiful animal and dreamy landscape.  Every arrangement of family portraits you could imagine. Lots of impromptu stuff too.  All professional looking.  National Geographic doesn’t look this great I thought.

My husband snapped an amazing pic of me with a Great Horned owl swooping above my head as I blinked in awesome wonder as he swooped a silent cool breeze less than inch above my head. I couldn’t wait to see this one later.  I didn’t look now in order to conserve my battery  and to save it for “dessert” after our trip ended.  I took a photo of my young son’s beautiful face softly illuminated by the light of a single birthday candle.  I told my family, this is the BEST photo I’ve ever taken.

I clicked over twelve hundred images.  I had plans to make scrapbooks and a movie of our trip.  Sights, smells, foods, countries, animals, music, architecture—it was all there.  It was dreamy.  It was surreal.  It was to be my concrete reminder of who we were then–in a place called the future.

It was to be my memory when future time becomes unreliable, perhaps even cruel.

I’ve  always viewed pictures as an insurance policy to protect our memory from what our brain invariably experiences:

A slow fade

These pictures were to be my proof that heaven on earth almost exists.

Except that it doesn’t.

On the last night, my camera disappeared.  In a span of less than ten minutes.  It’s possible I misplaced it, but I tend to guard my camera tighter than the Royal Guard watches over the Queen.

Stolen memories.  All of them.

I cried for almost twenty four hours straight.  It was hard watching my family watch me as they grappled to understand why this hit me so hard.  I explained, it wasn’t just the value of the camera, or the fact I can’t get back time and recreate all this.  It’s more.

A part of me was taken too.  Artists are more closely connected to their work than you may think.  You pour your energy and your soul into what you love.  It may only be understood and meaningful to you. Still, it does have meaning.

But this is the twist:  The creation becomes larger than life.  The creation supersedes the creator.

This is the great lie.  All the grandeur and majesty of created things, be it in nature, or be it made by human hands, is not eternal.   Be it castles or mountains or birds or prey or even temporary people like me or even the pictures I snapped away–it doesn’t last.

It all fades away.

We can’t hold on no matter how tightly we try.  No matter how determined we are to remember.  Just like we can’t keep anything we love forever, we also can’t control that which isn’t ours to control.

Yes, I lost all my pictures this week.  I lost my best camera, the one that snapped the first seconds of life of my youngest son.  I lost my digital best friend, my shadow sister who hangs on my shoulder at every significant event.

But I didn’t lose my children.  Oh, how I didn’t lose what I actually love.  We live in world where evil exists and a silent enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy all that we hold dear.   This had to be my perspective as I had no other choice but to move forward–it’s the people in this moment, this sacred moment called now that is all we truly ever have. 

I still  mourn for the loss of precious memories, yes.  But there is something no thief, be it man or time can destroy:

  • My joy.
  •  My appreciation of beauty.
  •  My wanderlust to travel and understand the world way beyond my own.
  •  My love and zest for life.
  •  My compulsion to create and share.  
  • My soul memories.  
  • Me, and all that I love.

I know I won’t remember all the images.  But I will remember the essence of our amazing trip.

Time will pass and people will pass too.  Loss will keep meeting me at the intersection of  “unprepared for this.”   “Not expecting this” will keep colliding with “not yet.”   

Pain will continue to interrupt our plans and knock us out of orbit as we journey through life.

All that is beautiful  and lovely and inspiring and honorable and  good, as well as all that is crushing and cruel and unexpected and difficult will all diminish.

Everything on this side of the veil is a slow fade.  

See the beauty in your mind as you learn to let go in life and allow God to be in charge.

 

   Bridge   Happy New Year friends!  I hope your 2013 is off to a good start.  New Year’s is always the time when we reflect on our past year, size it up, and vow to make changes in our life.  Perhaps we’ll  try to improve our fortune or lot in life or alter our appearance.  Maybe we go for the real heavy lifting and try to repair or improve our character, or perhaps just our perspective.

Maybe you too have written your resolution(s) on paper with measurable objective goals such as losing ten pounds by a certain date, or make partner at the firm this year, or finish the book you are writing, or train for and run a marathon before year’s end.  Perhaps you’ve sworn off making resolutions, so this time next year you won’t need to remember what you didn’t achieve that which you set out to.  You won’t have to be disappointed by the critic who resides in your head.

I find myself in both categories.  I do intend to make certain changes each year.  I even write some goals down.  But by year’s end I am often hard-pressed to find the original list of goals.  That’s because I’m a revisionist.  Perhaps a bit flighty.  Scattered.  Changeable.  Distractible.  Priorities shift in my life seemingly the way the wind changes direction.

What do you wish for, just for you?  Seriously, what is it that you most want to do different in your life, or attract towards your life?  Someone?  Something?   Do you want more or less of the status quo?  Do you want to do something radically different?  Do you want to savor and hold on to your security and/or contentment?   If you were given only one more year, how would you live?

When one thinks of the sad news of this year such as the massacres of innocent children and people in both Connecticut and Colorado, it doesn’t take long to realize we walk but a thin thread.  Our lives are not only precious, they are sacred.  Who’s to say when our last day will be?  Only God knows.

I generally tend to focus on the positive in life, but that’s not to say I never complain.  I certainly do.  I make lots of intention lists and to do lists, and succeed much more on daily tasks then I do in general life goals.  If I could resolve to do one thing, it would be simply this: To bridge the gap between what I INTEND to do, with what I ACTUALLY do

      So this year, my goal is to live life more IN FOCUS.  Focus on INTENTION with INTENSITY until it becomes ACTUAL REALITY!

It’s not enough for me to say I want to bring a meal to someone soon; I NEED TO DO IT.

It’s no longer acceptable for me to say, I hope to get to the gym soon; I NEED TO DO IT.

I can’t complain about that which I don’t agree with in the world, I must speak, write, act—I NEED TO DO IT!

I mustn’t just say I’m grateful for so much that I have been blessed with, I NEED TO LIVE MY LIFE as a response, a testimony or an exclamation mark if you will, that life is good, God is good, and TRUTH and LOVE are the antidote to all that is wrong in the world.  TRUTH spoken in LOVE and LOVE SPOKEN TRULY can bridge what is divided in two, or hundreds of thousands for that matter, and be united into one.  One love. 

One.  We are one, but we are not the same.  Can we all find common ground in our humanity, our faith, our music, our beliefs, and our heart’s desire to become more selfless and less selfish?  Can we learn to seek ways to cherish and nurture life, rather than injure and destroy it, starting with the words you say?

FOCUS.  INTENTION.  LOVE.

Love is a temple.  Love the higher law.  And this is a sacred honor:  We get to carry each other.

Who will you lift up?  Whose burdens will you shoulder?  What risks will you take as you pour love from your heart?

It’s New Year’s Day.  I will begin again.  What say you?

May you too resolve to be all that God designed you to be this year.  Happy New Year!

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2


NEW YEAR’S DAY – U2