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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Quiet Christmas

Our first week at home in our brand new apartment passes in a blur. New beds and sounds, on top of long travel and stopover hours, an inverted sleep schedule (Indian time is 11 and 1/2 hours ahead of Minnesota's) mean unanticipated.moments of sudden sleeping or disorientation during the week.  Still, we manage to get a lot done, tuning in again with the the household staff in the process of last minute details to the apartment and the assembling of Christmas treat bags for neighbors and those who help us regularly.

We had a relatively quiet Christmas. I use the word 'relatively' advisedly (is that acceptable grammar?) . Friends had brought family and staff a few days earlier to rejoice in the progress of their tiny inner city hospital , as well as to welcome us with Christmas hymns and prayers of blessing. Other friends sent fruit and sweet treats.  Our families with whom we might have spent the holidays were in Chennai or Bangalore with relatives, had gone on a tour of Kerala, or stayed home in Hyderabad this year.  One brother and his wife who live in the first floor of the same building went to church, and only one group of carollers came around our street Christmas eve, so it was  quiet in the neighborhood.

But on Christmas eve we drove with Raghava's (driver) and Pushpa's (household helper) children town to look at Christmas lighting around town, and sit a few minutes in meditation at each of several churches :  St. Matthew's West and North parishes, St. Joseph's Catholic Church, and Trinity Congregation in the old Kugler Hospital Campus.  Darkness fell soon after we set out.

You would think that, after fifty years I'd worked things through, but as we passed through thronging shopping areas, and over a bridge spanning a number of railway tracks, I had to admit to what could only be called culture shock. ( Second time in fifty years isn't too bad a record, but I wasn't thinking of that at the time.)  There was more than just amazement at the unforgiving sea of auto rickshaws, motor cycles and cars, all of them with bright lights and none of them particularly observing the lane system, the closeness of the exhaust-polluted air, the scene stitched together with people intent on their various ways, determined, really, to keep moving despite traffic, ignoring signals and danger, clambering over medians and between cars.  By now, you, as well as I, realize that this is India:  To put it tritely, up close and personal.

In one dark lane, an lone older woman with a cane waited and watched for her chance to cross an unbroken stream of cars.  None slowed or stopped. Neither did we. And for a moment the intellectual knowledge of class and cultural disparity became irrelevant.  I was one with the stream of people; I was that woman waiting for a chance to cross. What did a passport in my purse and the relative spaciousness of our vehicle matter?  I was in a car contributing to both the mass and the mess. I was the old woman unsure of crossing a busy street. I was both problem and solidarity.  The mind could not encompass what it wanted, or needed, to think, except to admit that, in that moment, I could not process the thought, as I felt myself shrink, speechless, wordless, into my comfortable seat.

The next day after church, again, we make short visits to four churches. First, we stop to worship at St. Matthew's West, under tinsel and styrofoam decorations hung from high rafters, and saints keeping their watch from stained glass windows --brought here by German missionaries a hundred years ago, damaged panes here and there patched with faded imitations of original images. We observe the scene and remember simpler Christmases past at each of the churches, awed at vast shamianas shielding thousands of chairs and temporary outdoor stages from the sun. People attending the neighborhood Lutheran church's outdoor service walk past beggars at the gate, or are driven in to be dropped off, each in their own due time, arriving anywhere from an hour early to very late, during the three hour worship service.

Back at home, I break open a bag of candy kisses to share with the helpers who'll care of us and our household this season.   Raghava is nonplussed, and starts to unwrap his.  Pushpa takes her cue from the rest of us, but pauses at the sight of what (here, she turns toward Raghava and lowers her voice) "looks like a turd..." The three of us eye each other tentatively: Raghava-- wondering whether and what to explain about this observation, either to me or to her, Pushpa-- seeking a social clue, and myself-- hesitating to say more lest I appear to belittle small cowpies topped with fresh flowers which actually do figure in a local celebration every January.

A beat.

Pushpa looks surprised as Raghava pops a candy into his mouth, and she hesitates before slowly following suit.  Raghava and I wag our heads to indicate that it does indeed look like what she thinks, but I go on to explain that it's a popular American chocolate treat, called a candy kiss. This is too much for Pushpa, whose eyes bulge with an attempt at restraint, before the three of us burst into laughter at the multicultural incongruities of this conversation.

The rest of the day is quiet, as families throughout the neighborhood and town get together with their own, and we are thankful.  The hours-long worship broadcast on loudspeakers from our nearby St. Matthew's North Parish is heard in the background.  My husband and I take part in preparing a holiday lunch to share with Raghava and Pushpa and their families--we are six adults and four children, and pass the time together amiably at noon, when the spirit of Christ, our Savior, is born once more.

Here We Go Again

It's been fifty years since I first arrived in India, fresh from college,eager to begin a three year assignment teaching English as a foreign language at Lutheran mission schools in Guntur. Since then my husband and I have tried unsuccessfully to establish a work relationship that would allow us to live here (bureaucracy, lack of needed/promised infrastructure), gotten too entrenched in jobs (good ones) and with family (precious children, growing up as children do) to leave America, been derailed by personal medical contingencies (if you know us, you know what), watched our children launch their own families (grandchildren--yay!), and finally, after retirement, started an all-volunteer non-profit organization to accompany people in several rural Guntur District neighborhoods on their journey to community and sustainable lifestyles (widespread needs).

Fast forward:  This is at least my twentieth trip.  I was not at all looking forward to it. I need more time to rest, heal, strengthen after a particularly difficult year..But after a ten day adjustment period, I think I am getting my 'sea' legs  And, Lordwilling, 2015 WILL BE a better year.

SO, starting on December 15, we flew from Minneapolis to Mumbai via Amsterdam, with wonderful seats and service on Minneapolis based DELTA Airlines.. Long stopovers in AMS and MUM give us time to enjoy brand new international terminals, including immigration, and lunch at a transit lounge in Mumbai. A fellow passenger strikes up a conversation (a throwback to days when doing so was de rigeur on any long Indian trip, by bus, train, or plane);  it turns out that not only is he a pharmaceutical salesman like my husband was, years ago, but he also has contact information for a government approved airport renta- car-cum-driver,  which my husband promptly calls and arranges to meet us upon arrival at the Hyderabad airport. While cooling our heels in the spacious and modern Mumbai airport my husband and a familiar porter book an ongoing flight to Hyderabad on IndiGo, perhaps the youngest of India's domestic airlines. Indeed, few people in the whole busy airport appear to be older than in their thirties.  The Indigo flight crew look like children to us, and appear to be very new at the usual initial flight routine aboard their tiny and tidy white and blue planes.

Eager to be home, we've shelved our plan to stay and rest in Hyderabad for a couple days in favor of driving on through, arriving home at nightfall.  Husband and I are beyond tired, and the driver and I have never set eyes on the building before.  Not until an unfamiliar watchman's wife stares us down in consternation do we realize we have driven into the parking level of a similar building, two doors down the street. Backing out with apologies and just a wee bit of embarrassment, we finally drive in at the right gate,' laughing all the way,' where our watchman's young daughters dash to open our car doors with shouts of  'Uncle, Uncle!!' for my husband, and curious gazes for this 'new' person who is his wife.

Their mother Pushpa (same name as our ngo), who will be our household helper, helps Raghava (our local driver and husband's man-Friday for you-name-it regular and odd jobs around home and the town as well as driving) set to work downloading our baggage and sending it upstairs. Before the elevator gates clank, a voice inside repeatedly insists 'Please close the door!' before we ascend to our fourth floor quarters,where more clanks and the message are repeated again.  The elevator voice seems older and more subdued than one in a Hyderabad apartment where we dwelt briefly four or five years ago.  Our doorbell proves a different matter...a shriek, by anybody's definition.  But, never mind, finally, we are home.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How About That?!


Already I know that a new year's resolution will be to submit, submit, submit; that is, to submit samples of my writing to magazines and other publishing sites.  Ever wary of sharing my 'gems' for scrutiny, I finally learned to use the electronic process aptly named 'Submittable', to channel my submissions directly to their intended destinations.  Whether an editor finds them worthy is out of my hands.

So this week I am pleased to say that my essay "Writing Poems at Sixty Nine", which I'd sent out via a new process, 'Submittable,' and with my blessing,  appeared online today.  I had submitted it to the's website, under the category "Writer's Block," which, I assume,  means place for thought, not obstruction.  My writing has been found worthy.

So how do I feel about that?  Filled with glee, fingers flying over the keyboard to tell all my friends and writing team (fellow writers and encouragers) (current parlance calls for a feminine counterpart to 'fellow,' but 'gal writers' hasn't quite caught on yet--shall we start?) that I am in print.  Online.  In digit (as in format, not hand or foot).  Oh my, terminology is such a variable  thing...with all the alternatives, how do we make the right choices?

I notice that the editor has changed a word choice in the 'Writing (etc.)" essay, substituting "teaching artist" for 'teacher,' which is the word I had written.  After living in India where tradition has it that teacher is third deserving of respect/reverence only after God and parents, and having been a teacher for thirty years and more, the term 'teacher,' for me, conveys a world of responsibility, skill, and respect (although opinions and teachers may differ).  'Teacher' has all the substance and wonder (wonderment or wonderful, take your pick) that my essay required, and indeed honored.

But the editors, bless their hearts, have their own messages to convey.  In this case, making a statement that writing is an art form.  I would not disagree. But 'writing' itself is a term for a respected and skilled occupation.  Other people, who could be writers too if they just realized the potential and practice of writing down the thought and spoken word, often express awe and wonder when they find out I am a writer.  So I do not believe the term 'teacher' is enhanced by changing it to 'teaching artist.'  In fact, the two word term, repeated as often as it is in the essay, becomes somewhat of a distraction, too weighty in diction for the purpose, which, in my mind, was already served.

Come to think of it, even the humblest occupation, say doing the dishes, can become an art form, a spiritual discipline. Think of Brother Lawrence.  Attitude, attitude, attitude, (and practice).

In the end, however, I bow to the editor.  The piece was published, after all. And I thank you very much. Personally,  I will continue to use the simple, direct term 'teacher.'  With all due respect.

(Stay tuned to, where you are now, for tales of this year's adventures in India, probably not the ones you might expect, beginning after a week or so.  You can 'follow' via the link on the right hand side of this page --->, to receive an email notice whenever I make a new entry, at least once a week, for the about next six weeks. No advertising etc. emails will accrue, 'promise.)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Dawn, a new day...

Morning fades pastel pinks and blues into a wispy-clouded, baby blue sky, sun hesitates, it's eight a.m. and I'm back at the desk, stealing a few moments before speaking with others, breakfasting, segueing into the activities of a new day.  Morning meditation has me noting, once again (do we ever really learn?) Micah 6:8, that the ultimate to-do list is simply three items:  do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God. So let me give it a try, with the help of God.

(I was about to say 'Let me give it a shot,' then many phrases and sayings we have in our language which could be construed as violent...and what would happen if we purged them in favor of more neutral or gentle terms...)

Later in the day, I hear that an essay I wrote, describing first impressions of a writing class I enjoyed, will be published online next week.  You can find it at <> in their blog page, "The Writers' Block."  I hope you'll give it a look:  Let me know if the essay gives you a mental picture of the LOFT can leave a comment right on their blog.

You can also sign up to 'follow' me under the blue bar on the right side of my personal blog page, <>. Then you'll get an email-reminder, with a link right in the reminder, that you can click to return to my blog, whenever I add something there. No advertising emails will result, I promise!

Monday, September 1, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 30: Keeping Hope Alive

On this last day of the ROOT 30 Day Journal Challenge, the originator of the challenge, Lisa Sonora offers a Chinese proverb as inspiration:

Thank you, Lisa, for making me focus on inspiration, per se.  Though I tend to catch the moments of inspiration as they fly, it's good to have 'swept out' that part of the creative mind, to consider sources and be reminded to remember, access, celebrate, and honor my sources of inspiration by intentional as well as spontaneous writing practice.

In Lisa's daily handful of prompts today, the one that calls to me is:

The answer comes swiftly: my grandchildren.  Whether stopped by a song during a tantrum,  eyes twinkling when we meet, narrating a delightful experience or anxiety, or a rush and a hug in the midst of a crowd of relatives, their love is unconditional.  And so is mine.

Deo gratias.

As other thinkers, writers, and musicians have so often written, I honor the ultimate source of joy and inspiration with the words, soli deo gloria, my humble, pooh-like praise.

(Alas, my inability, thus far, to control the background color and relative size of cut-and-paste quotes.)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 29: Chrysallises Count

Today's inspirational quote was: "There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you its going to turn into a butterfly." by Buckminster Fuller

What a great reminder that wonderful and creative  things--books, works of art, children, even,
start with or go through unattractive, apparently inactive periods, but all the while growth and transformation are taking place.  To disturb or look to closely during that time could mean spoiling the result before it even happens.

This is a metaphor for my so-called 'fears' of the writing life, vis a vis hopes for what my work might become.

Question is, will I exercise the patience and the inner work to allow the writing to show me its own completion?  Now I'm getting into the enigmatic sort of statement that I really do not appreciate...but I think I know what I mean, and the implication I draw from it is to fuss less, stay on task, and trust things will be complete in due time.

So let me do. (May this be today's mantra reminding me to claim positives, to look for miracles and transformations every day, and to believe that they will come.)

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 28: Pooh-Poohing perfection and its downside, discouragement

"Have no fear of perfection, you'll never reach it," attributed to Salvador Dali, opens up a window on possible sources of my procrastination...fear of closure, lest the product or producer be found wanting, fear of failing so why try, fear of criticism which, considered thoughtfully, could actually help refine a person, or his or her work. Fear of not having the right stuff, fear of making mistakes, fear of losing a train of thought, fear of falling, fear of going on too long or its opposite, of not being able to fill up the time or space.  Fear of interruptions, of misunderstanding and/or being misunderstood. Fear of being too early or too late or on the wrong date, and more, for the most part illegitimate fears.  Nobody probably fears the things I fear that fit in those  particular categories more than I. ORl might they?

Curious, though, that I began the list as a dispassionate narrator, but ended up claiming absolute ownership of the 'fears' listed, which case is obviously not possibly true.  The fears themselves are not even realistic, One thing that's true is that these are shadowy, imagined fears, nearby but rarely acknowledged, or acknowledged as 'excuses.'

"If I didn't fear perfection, then I..." (= the prompt) would probably be further ahead, more confident and poised than I am about my writing and writing life now. All of which I desire. So then why not   re-write fears and shortfalls as positive goals!

I have a plethora of resources in fact, in friends, in classes and in writer support groups available to me.

I have electronic spell checkers and writer peers who would (and even my husband could) look over my work for errors.  I say I can take critiques, so should be able to relax and attend to criticism, right or wrong, warranted or unwarranted, for what it's worth.

I can decide at a certain point that I just have to say this is enough, and let the work stand and deliver on its own.

I acknowledge having made more mistakes than I am aware of, that everybody makes mistakes, and that the best way is to deal with them in the moment and move on, not to dwell (or recite) on them.

I can trust God to keep in mind any thoughts and words that I need for the time and place that I need them...I can also make, save, and file notes in an organized writing environment.

I can be faithful to exercises and routines that strengthen both mind and body, and be careful how and where I step.

I can speak or write what I am given to say, and recognize whether and when it's time to go on, to revise, and/or stop.

I can recognize, not fear, audience as an ally, a necessary component for my work to be able to convey meaning.

I can look back over this list as a confidence boosting exercise.  Hooray for exercise!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 27: To think or not to think?

Today I find myself looking forward to the end of this challenge, of letting the spirit speak and soar in its own way...I think that, to a great extent, I have been working on the same tasks for a number of years.  It's good, however, to be reminded (prompted) to attend to the spirit, to keeping it (To the extent possible) on track, nourished, tuned in.  And I haven't always exercised the discipline to allow that to happen. Yes, discipline/common sense, can be freeing....  You can probably tell that the spirit flagged somewhere in them middle of the month.  Why was that?  Pain, lack of sleep, lack of 'productivity,' failure to recognize and honor the process of being on the back burner..perhaps all of the above.

Today's inspiration:

“The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.” -- Pablo Picasso

Prosaic, perhaps, but 'seems to me we need a healthy dose of each.  Our thoughts and spirits may soar, but we still need to walk on the earth with others, and that requires some disciplines of its own, which may or more likely may not mean having anything to do with writing.

So, let me tend to the dishes and get to bed, for tonight!

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 26: What keeps the soul aloft.

Lisa quotes Flaubert in another one of those sayings that sounds grand and echoes the emptiness of man's efforts to the the 'end-all' of wisdom and spirit. "The principal thing in this world is to keep one's soul aloft.'  Sounds as though, by dint of one's own efforts, one could free oneself. Try as one may, I believe we are endowed, by the creator, with a spiritual nature that only the creator can enliven, and that only if we can 'stay out of the way.'  Perhaps we/I try too hard.

Be that as it may, let me respond to the prompt, what makes my spirit soar? Oh, so many things:

a pleased, confident, triumphant, joyful, and or meditative song
sunshine on a newly rainwashed world
fresh, growing greenery...from grass to tree
flowers, whether graceful or fanciful in form
their fragrance...this season,  breathing in the short-lived divinity of a profusion of slender and      unexpected acidanthera blossoms, new to my garden and vocabulary
any unexpected pleasure
granchildren's hug, smile, or spontaneous expession of emotion, art, movement , achievement, yes, even creativity, in response to the world
a gentle, kind word, look, or touch
patterns in nature
a unique invention
a good story
a wry joke
eye hugs
joys expressed
unstructured time
reading in peace
fresh air
satisfaction, that CLOSURE which, in my writing, seems to elude me
unhurried, uncritical time with children, family, dear friends, insightful conversants

My second grade teacher did well to instill appreciation for beauty, poetry, well-being. Miss Narvarud rehearsed "The world is so full of a number of things, it's a wonder that all of us shouldn't be kings" until it was ingrained in our hearts as we lined up near the classroom door to go to recess or home.  When I quoted the poem to our almost eight year old granddaughter, she exclaimed, "But we couldn't be kings, we're girls!"  LOL and changing times, attitudes.  She did, however, appreciate the sentiment when I explained it was just a convention, 'we' and 'kings' representing everybody, male and female.  That sort of little clarifying exchange makes my spirit soar. Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 25:: What am I afraid of?

Lisa's pep talk today is about resolutely facing and working through, or despite, one's fears.  Her own words are a good prompt:

It’s ok to be scared. Terrified even.  What if this was a sign you were headed in the right direction.  
       Now that's a new thought.  Hmmm.  Given that nothing is really preventing or warning me otherwise, going ahead anyway might just help still my fears.  "You'll never know unless you try." Like jumping into the water at the beach or the pool.  Most of us do eventually learn to swim.
     Our eight year old granddaughter sets a fine example of confronting her fears, assigning herself, step by step, to overcome:...recently, being new at her school this year, going to sleep in a room by herself at grandparents' house.  I admire that purposefulness.  She and her mother, my marathon-running daughter, inspire me anew, to take the leap, to persist, to review, revise, finalize and offer my writing for publication as opposed to just obsessing over it,  inspire me   to follow through.  Which reflects a root of my procrastination, a fear of closure, of being done,  and/or of not being well done, of missing something.  Like that sentence...I really should be able to articulate that ' 
       The question remains: What AM I afraid of in regards to 'taking my writing to the next level'?  Is it as simple as fear of being interrupted, of having another thought intrude on another very good one which is begging to be written down?  Is it fear of criticism or disparagement, esp. by spouse?  Is it worry that I'm spending precious time on work that doesn't seem to be serving any 'useful' purpose when there are household and relationship tasks I 'should' be working on?  Maybe it's just fear of the dark, reluctance to 'put myself out there.'
     At any rate, I am working on the 'resolute' part of it.  Taking at least one small step a day, and chocolate, are good incentives to go farther...Assigning myself this 30 day journal writing challenge at least results in practice, habituating myself to discipline, lack of which I have spent far too much time lamenting and little enough time battling.

Monday, August 25, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 24: Surrender in two senses of the word.

Day 24's 'inspiration ' quotes Rilke on the rootedness that would occur should we 'surrender to earth's intelligence.'  Do we allow ourselves to be rooted in/harmonious with, nature, the physical world outside us, attend to the food and chemical balance inside us?  How many of our ills would not even occur, were we so in tune.
Then LIsa suggests thinking of the effects of surrendering, in the sense of giving up, something. and imagining the result.  Not the same story as para. one, but a good thought to think, nonetheless! If I gave up procrastination, that ought to be the key to getting places on time.  No excuse, you will say, but I lack the 'wiring' to plan and participate in periods of transition.  When I think of 'the next thing,' I visualize already being into whatever it is, rather than the simple concrete steps I need, or I need/need to request help with, to get there, almost as if I expect those steps to take care of themselves. If I 'gave up" lateness, (oops, stated as a desired result, though: learned to be prompt ) I would be more grounded in groups and the agenda of whatever was going on with them/it at a given time and place...conversations, movies, church service (where the confession of sins, for instance, a central practice in our worship, comes fairly near the beginning of the order of worship)...
So let me do, by the grace of God!

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 23:

Dazzle...what dazzles me?  Why am I, this day, not particularly interested in dazzle?  ' Recently read an admonition for those who just want a little break and not really to stay up: not to turn on too much light when getting up in the middle of the night, because it triggers an awakeness.  Razzle.dazzle?!

'Reminds me of Emily Dickenson's poem, "Tell all the truth."  (Is it about writing, or communication in general?  Literally or figuratively?)  It speaks for me as well as itself:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth's superb surprise;

As lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind,
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind. 

                   -Emily DIckenson

Dazzle enough for this wee hours writing break...It's back to bed for me now, have a great day!-

30 Day Journal Challenge, Days 21 and 22: Returning to the nitty gritty

For 'inspiration' Lisa today shares a message seen painted on a wall in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico:
     Ricuerda quien eres - Remember who you are.

Ooh, now this could mean to look at the positives or the negatives. Could one just be the yin of the other's yang?  Okay, now we're getting around to another view of 'root.'  What is/are the roots of my procrastination, tendency toward impulsiveness, frequent failures to recognize how I would, could, and 'should' come across to others--visually, aurally, and in print, and failures to follow through?

This question is parallel to today's prompt:  to name and let go of a limiting self-definition,  turn it around by asserting something I want to do and/or be. Teacher/mother/self, I seem to have been both endowed with and intentional about having a positive attitude.  Looking back over the years, however, I've noticed this attitude eroding in how I view myself and my abilities, self-doubts arising from complaints and criticisms of and by me gradually taking over.  

But having recognized a problem is the first step toward 'solving' it.  By the grace of God, time and space open up in a new way after retirement from a career of teaching and years of child-raising and family responsibilities.  On the one hand, there's never enough time.  The nitty gritty of daily tasks remain: self care, meals, dishes, laundry.  On the other hand, these can be moments of stillness and awareness where one has to/is allowed to take a step back and look at what's happened, what's happening.  Even the simple act of washing one's hands, or the dishes, can be calming times of meditation.

"State desired results," I admonish others in distress.  Renewed positive thinking, the desired result. "Every day is a new beginning," I tell my children and friends seeking a shoulder to lean on. I realize anew that the same is true for me.

My own process of renewal is inevitably energized by returning to the roots of my faith journey. Chronic lateness is pulled up short by the need to join worship in a community that meets at a certain time and place, a community that begins its weekly meeting with a joint confession of shortcomings by nature and by intention, along with an affirmation of the unwavering love and forgiveness of God.

What poetry, what truth, comfort, relief, actually, in uttering those familiar words in corporate admission to our common humanity:  "We confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.  We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.  We have not loved You with our whole heart.  We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.  For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us, forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name.  Amen.

...and the 'comfortable words' of the pastor's statement of God's forgiveness:  

Almighty God, in His mercy, has given His Son to die for us, and for His sake forgives us all our sins. As a called and ordained minister of the Church of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

My desire is to tap into that love and forgiveness, to receive, celebrate, anew, every day.  Familiar verses from scripture and a lifetime of hymn-singing rise up to reinforce me when desire or attention flag. Today:  "New every morning is Thy love, my waking and uprising prove." 

My prayer is that what I write will reflect that.  Strength and confidence in everyday terms.  Peace.

These thoughts seem inevitably tied to the prompt of the 22nd:  Stillness...  We need it.  
Scripture puts it in even stronger terms:  "In returning and rest ye shall be saved..."  Isaiah 30:16.
I wonder whether this speaks to the reader as it does to me.  Or is the meaning only clear when and for whom it is the right time. And/or willing.  Never mind the negatives, I am a beloved child of God.  And so are you.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 20: I'm glad that I am me.

"I'm glad that I am me, that's who I want to be;
though there are changes I must make,
I'm glad that I am me..." So goes verse one of a kindergarten social studies song, which goes on to say that acting like someone else is foolish.

Today's challenge, a greeting card verse by Lisa herself, is to "Enjoy your presence."
One of the prompts is to tell what I enjoy of my 'gifts.'
Still fussing over Lisa Sonora's 30-day journal exercise as being excessively self-serving, I remember that that was the point...getting at the root of what is freeing and creative; I suppose it makes sense that, if I am going to be rooted, the root needs to reside in and with me. I recall old Shakespeare's line, "To thine own self be true'  Thence it follows, sure as night the day, thou canst not be false to any man.*  "Physician heal thyself." The airlines' admonition to secure your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs.   And the 'gifts' idea, of course, is very Biblical, so I am familiar with that.

OK, Lisa, I'm 'in.' Vis: Health limitations notwithstanding (and I work on renewing that, too) I am:

Music, singing, speaking, reading aloud, reading poetry aloud esp., cooking, washing dishes, laundry, listening to someone who needs/craves an ear, speaking a word of peace, driving for clarification of meaning, writing, reading to/talking with little children, teaching little children to read and /or write/journal..."These are a few of my favorite things."  Oh, and did I say potatoes?  I eschew the 'faves' question, but I really like spuds.

In terms of freeing the creative spirit, the intention of this month of journal challenges, I do deal with it from time to time, have done for years, sometimes for a dedicated time and space, solo or with others,  most recently a study group of the book EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY SPIRITUALITY, by Peter Scazzero.  A tour de force of spiritual practices, good for anybody, but requiring truth and 'grit' to do that kind of work.

*(LOL; to another man-term maxim I share with my seven year-old granddaughter today, she immediately responds, "But we're not men, we're girls." Gotta love it! How times have changed.  I explain to her about the archaic usage, where 'men' is used to refer to all humans.  She is nonplussed.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Days 18-19 Sorry

Here we are on the 20th, working on the entry for the 19th...a not uncommon delay...but hey, I'm working on it!

A flash storm swept through town, suddenly all the appliances shut down, and writing time got swallowed up in the panic and drama (isn't that what sturm and drang means?) of getting the circuit boxes checked, flipped and flipped again until everything was back on, relieving anxious moments imagining what might have to be done with thawing food in the event that things did not work out.

But the frig was evidently the (or part of the) culprit.  It took more tries, and "Just one more try" by an ever helpful neighbor, to get it going.  So the fix is only temporary..we've been knowing for some time that the frig is singing its swan song (the freezer actually chirps when overloaded, and the light is irreparably defunct). So this is a wake-up call to get busy and look for a new frig again ('went through this last year and abandoned it for other pursuits when the chosen model didn't fit the space), this time concluding with a purchase that works for both senses of the term.

And then there will be bonding time with whoever is willing to accept wilted/wilting food when we empty this one out in anticipation of the new one.  Affirmation of neighborliness, frig re-started, determination to follow through on search for much needed replacement frig, reminder of need for plan B for food have been brought to mind, in all, not a bad record of results for one brief storm. Thank God for all!

Not that I'm a 'pollyanna' (one of my bff's is a real Polly), but I do believe good comes out of difficulty, if we can recognize it, and an attitude of gratitude beats dwelling on the struggle that eventually led to the good.  It may come later and in a way we don't even recognize; may God give us the grace of retrospective recognition.  'Ah, that's why that happened,' or 'If that would not have happened we may never have _____________." You fill in the blank.

All of which in a way addresses yesterday's prompt and 'inspiration' nicely, vis:

Day 18's  Inspiration:
Storms make trees take deeper roots. - Dolly Parton ,,,
The 18th's Journal Prompts: (do one, some, all, or none, as you wish)
The storm that made me stronger was…
          I learned that…
               The gift I possess as a result is…

Admittedly, my example is simplistic compared to the nitty gritty introspection Lisa may be prompting.  But it addresses the basic attitude, which is to expect good things.  Examine things for the good.  Adknowledge them when they happen.  And be thankful. As an evangelist named Oral Roberts was fond of saying, "Expect a miracle."  And (was it?) one of the many co-queens in "The King and I" sings, "A Hundred Thousand Miracles are happening every day."  Where will I, where will you, find ours today??

Sunday, August 17, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 17: Changing the Meaning

Today’s Journal Prompts: (do one, some, all, or none, as you wish)
Think about something in your creative life that bugs you.
The thing that is bugging me about my creative life is:
The meaning I am attaching to this issue is:
What is a new meaning you could pick, that feels good? Something to try on, even just for today?
My new, feel good meaning is:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Now this is getting interesting.  Lisa suggests taking something about the creative life that bugs me,
and turning the meaning of it around.  Ok, easy: procrastination.  So much to do, so little time, and I while it away when I could be more productive, even in little snippets of time.  Turning it around:  I recall a verse learned in childhood, in Sunday School?

                                  ...only a little minute,  (actually, it's "...just a tiny, little minute.")
                                  but eternity is in it.

I looked it up on the 'net and found it's part of a longer poem by Dr. Benjamin Mays exhorting one to
make the most of life.  Really, so simple.  Tend to the minutes and the hours, the tasks, will take care
of themselves.  So I must.

And one other thing that bugs me in my so called (intended) creative life is the mound of files, notes, papers that need to be sorted before I can make sense of them, or sorted through to find the one I
need for a specific project.  Nobody else can do this, because nobody else knows all the intentions.
But, by the grace of God, just today I found someone willing to help regularize my word processing document files, another long intended task, which will be a great incentive for me to get in there and sort--one day, one minute at time, and conquer those piles so I can write without the guilty feeling
that it still has to be done 'some day.'

The meaning I seem to be attaching to this pair of issues is, I am using piles-to-be-sorted as an excuse for procrastination in developing (and completing!) old and new writing ideas and projects.

Here's my meaning-makeover for that:  Wow, I have so many wonderful ideas waiting to be used in the wonderful things I have yet to write.  What a  resource! There must be some real gems in there:
Let me at'em! A few pages every time I pass my desk will get the job done, like the tortoise...Mother gave me a Finnish glass snail once, as a joke referring to my habit of procrastination, but I will cast
the snail's lot in with the turtle, with the mantra, and add this new one:  little by little wins the race.  Turtles, snails, here I come.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

30 Day Journal Project, Day 15: "Independence Day," and Day 16, A Fond Memory

Indian Independence could say I observed it by being independent of the journal project. By the time I get around to addressing Day 16 in the wee hours of the 16th,  a painful bout of bursitis that preoccupied me on the 15th has, lordwilling,had begun to recede.

A typically both-clumsy-and-profound quotation from Rumi is Lisa's 'inspiration for today,' to the effect that, even in winter, when the tree seems 'dead,' the root is still at work.  This sentiment is repeated in a short poem by (I seem to remember it was Eve Merriam) and another one I wrote myself, to this day unsure of whether and how much I was quoting hers (or whosever it was)...but I am unable to find it or anything like it on the 'net.  Could I have written the sentiment all by myself? Now what did I name it...a frequent quandary when looking for the file of a certain poem, remembered from the text but not the title!

Serendipitously, a devotional message that I read next quotes a personal 'root' memory of my own, a golden oldie hymn I haven't heard in years: "God be with you til we meet again."  It  brings up such a palpable response that I want to share  it right away with my family, vis the following email message:

[When I see/hear/sing this song I can almost  feel warm hugs and "'bye"s
after we had all sung it at the conclusion of a get together with  friends and elders 
who made up my childhood church. Not so much reveling as just feeling that 
everything was good, everything was right with the world, for this time and place 
and would be, lord willing, until next time. 
The writer's comment at the end is a reminder not to just enjoy the blessing
(in this case, of a fond memory, the blessing of fellowship), but to pray for others (and, in
opportunities that present themselves, to play it practice and
share the hospitality and kindness we have experienced.)

Maybe that's stating the obvious.  Maybe not.  It's an affirmation of the lifestyle 
to which  we are committed. 

'Just wanted to share that -- and the love -- with you today!

Mom (S)]

Roots.  Even on the difficult days, they remain.  Remembered, they give us wings.

Friday, August 15, 2014

30 Day Journal Project, Day 14: The Equivalent of "Just Do It"?

Today LIsa quotes Henry Miller, "Paint as you like and die happy."  (He painted and wrote about painting, in his journals )  Lisa's prompt challenges us/me to make my own parallel statement, i.e. _____________as I like and die happy. That 'die' part makes it look kind of stark...I find myself thinking up a list of some things and their logical results...or consequences...instead.

I'd rather simply focus on things I might do as a lark, spontaneous bit and bursts of happiness, many of which could be enumerated in the previous post about happiness (plus picking up a new and fascinating, page-turner of a book, calling a dear friend or, in contrast, someone who appears to be in need of a cheery call, baking something...which usually defaults to chocolate chip cookies, and playing hymns, children's songs, and simple versions of classical music). And then... my thoughts turn to the practice of art itself.

In high school and college, I would draw or doodle, flowers and simple designs, in the margins of a paper during  lecture.  Even now, I occasionally draw, in a burst of joy or as an intentional self-assignment in the midst of malaise, with pencil, pen, or colored markers, usually in a random journal that may or may not be the regular one...In fact, these days none is 'regular,' I seem to be in the random mode, making journal entries here and there, in whichever asynchronous journal happens to be handy.  (If an entry is put away into a random journal, will it ever surface meaningfully again? In the grand scheme of things, does it matter what I answer?)  For whom do I journal, anyway...years of sporadic or regular recitation of facts, celebrations and complaints, only now and then opening a window into the heart...)

I've been thinking lately about how I tend to skip over the instruction (i.e. study) and preparation of things, but rather tend to jum right into process itself, often with substandard or inconclusive results.  This may be something help me get 'unstuck:' I'll try making more intentional approaches to my writing through art.  Could it be the key to working through to a more thorough and satisfying conclusion? I may have been missing making a habit of what looks (!) like a very sensible practice, but it's never too late to start.

Drawing is fun.  So are a number of other art forms, but drawing is so accessible, easily begun with whatever pencil or paper are at hand.  (Deja vu:  skipping the preparation part, when you have to assemble and prepare materials for other art forms.) And the practice of letting myself go,  unconcerned about the so-called 'quality' of the writing or artistic result, can be freeing.  Lisa (and Henry and Lynn Fisher)'s idea of art to get the creative writing juices going is a good idea. Editing can come later.  ('ve heard it again and again, even believed it.  But do I let myself practice it?!

Lisa's prompt includes making a second statement: "If I gave myself permission to _____________ as I like, then _________________."  Okay, so I"ll say, "If I gave myself permission to practice art just for fun, then maybe I might become more focused, intentional, and well-polished in my writing." The latter of which is, but ever so slowly, already becoming a on days when I practice my quiet time, Bible study and reading, first thing in the morning.  Hm...let's see about adding art to that!

30 Day Journal Project, Day 13: "Recipe" for Happiness

There's a great deal beiong said, copied, told about happiness these days.  There's even a movie named "Happiness" (that I have yet to see), and the current issue of Minnesota Monthly magazine is dedicated to it.
It's not something to be defined in 25 words or less, or perhaps at all.  But here are some thoughts....
A little child.
It's that moment of satisfaction, the good feeling of knowing you are loved, willingly cared for by family, friends, caregivers, God.
It's accepting those life lessons that may be sad or hard but somehow you see that they are training sessions for helping yourself or another in times yet unseen, yet to come.
It's an ongoing discovery that life is wonder-ful, that God is good, that you are here for a purpose, that you can be the light for another person along the way.
Recipe?  I don't think so.  Recipes, perhaps. Countless.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 12: Returning and Rest

Today’s Inspiration:
"Rest is a weapon. "
— Jason Bourne said that (in A Bourne Ultimatum, by Robert Ludlum)
Today's prompt is the simplest yet, vis: what is my idea of 'rest.'  Although the quotation puts it in a rather abrasive tone, I see it as something softer,  like release, or peace.  in any case, once again, I respond with a list of some things that, for me, could be or signal rest:

The color of ripenng rice fields green
trees outside my study window, refreshing themselves in a pleasant breeze and sunshine
mini-breaks:  washing hands, sighting a butter- or dragonfly, noticing its coloration
watching distinctive flight of a bird
laughing with friend, adult or child
deep breathing
relaxing the jaw
familiar noises
moonlit night
focusing on a melody
the memory of a song
isometrics and a stretch just before I sleep
a smile: mine or another's, esp a smile exchanged
remembering loved ones, happy times, being loved
knowing that I am loved, blessed
a task done
a job well done
a problem solved, worry resolved
a comfortable chair
grace before meals
someone else in charge of the kitchen
the company of friends and loved ones
stopping in thought while reading a good book
a rocking chair
sitting on the porch or deck
greetings neighbors as they walk by
long end of a hug
"May I help you..." when my answer is yes
      ........I could go on
knowing that

Monday, August 11, 2014

30 Day Journal Project, Day 11: What, a mess?!

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” 
 Friedrich Nietzsche

I understand the 'mess' stage of the creative process, and am sometimes flummoxed by a spouse who does not appreciate it when a project at that stage spills over (to his point, I do have a room, desk, and some counter space dedicated to me and my projects)  onto the daily schedule and the dining room table...or when company necessitates clearing that table, no matter what.

But I also know that delaying and/or allowing 'the mess' to accumulate and/or spill over, something like these sentences, can become counterproductive, the search for buried notes and the endless sifting of
notes and papers into genre and categories become overwhelming, leading to repetition of the cycle which is toss, clump, pile, sift, intend...but never getting around to closure unless a deadline looms, and even then falling prey to a glitch or failure of organization grounding the project or submission on the cusp of success.

My granddaughter just showed me a picture of her imagination, but one which might be a reminder and inspiration for me to get on with the organization necessary for being able to enjoy the satisfaction of closure.  A seamstress (unbeknownst to her, my mother was one, par excellence) is flanked by a dress form bearing a dress complete with varicolored scallops, and a towering golden heart.  A golden word
balloon says what she is thinking:  "All done!"

Lord, help me overcome my over disorganization, by your grace, lead me to a place close to my heart, where my work can enjoy completion...and let me recognize when and what that will be!