Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cleaning out the shack...there can be healing from the hurt

Last night I went to a LifeTree Café ( for the first time.  I have seen the ads in the paper for a while.  Many of the topics have grabbed my attention.  I've just not gone or haven't been able to go.  This week's topic: "Can God Love a Mess Like Me?"  It was a video interview with William P. Young, the author of The Shack.

I read The Shack back several years ago, actually as required reading. :)  It was one of the first novels I actually took notes in.  Then, in the summer of 2009 I was invited to a Book Club where they were going to be discussing that book.  Since I had read it, I went.

Now, before I get too far into this post, this isn't going to be about The Shack. (Well, not the book, maybe the image it represents.)  It's going to be about William P. Young, LifeTree Café, and who knows what else.  We'll see.

So, back to the café.  Our local one is sponsored by Dallas Bay Baptist Church (DBBC) and is located at their Northgate Campus, right behind Chuck E. Cheese and near the library.  It's the old Service Merchandise building for any readers who've lived in the area a while.  Then it was a furniture store, etc.  (I got to go check out a jewelry robbery one night when it was still Service Merchandise!   It's a long story, but the robber had left part of his finger as evidence, if I remember correctly.)

The café has a great atmosphere to it, very "comfy".  Cool lighting above up front (should have gotten a picture) with wavy fixture and lightbulbs.  Round tables that seat four to facilitate conversation.

Per their website, the LifeTree café is a "conversation café".  It's a place to explore life, talk with friends, and hear from God.  One of their slogans is: "Doing Life.  Doing God."  As I mentioned, our local café is sponsored by DBBC.  A quick search showed me some LifeTree cafés sponsored by these churches: Lutheran, Presbyterian, Assembly of God, Methodist, and probably others.

One of the signs on the wall that caught my attention was this one:  "You're welcome just as you are.  Your thoughts are welcome.  Your doubts are welcome.  We're all in this together.  God is here, ready to connect with you in a fresh way."  That's a breath of fresh air for some folks who don't have places to share their thoughts and doubts, or don't really feel that they are welcome as they are.   I think folks are finally coming around to the fact that doubts are okay and are a necessary part of life.  Anyway, the café offers that hospitality.  Not only is it a saying on the wall, you can tell by being there that it is true.

So, I've got my nametag, my cup of java, we have a full table of four, I'm ready to connect with God in a fresh way.  Roll film.

Before the interview starts, there is a video clip of a beautiful house on the outside with a host talking about all the improvements he has done and is doing.  The camera person keeps asking to see the inside.  The host keeps putting him off.  Finally, he opens the house's doors and allows him in.  The inside is much different from the outside.  It is cluttered, messy, hard to get around and literally, the host kept falling over all the stuff.  It hindered his every move in one room.  Finally, after showing a few other rooms, he said that the inside is all messy and that no one can be on the inside any longer, they can only see the outside because that is pleasant to look at and is neat and tidy.

That clip in itself gives one lots to think about, to chew on, to peruse, to allow to flow throughout the heart, mind, and soul.

William Paul Young.

What he shared was powerful.  He gave his background, the background of The Shack, and talked about how the shack represents the house of the soul.   The hurt, pain, and damage in his life to his heart, mind, and soul began at an early age and it continued to stockpile throughout his life as he learned survival techniques.

Some quotes that caught my attention:

"If God is to heal us, he has to take things away from us-- but he won't yank them out of our hands.  We have to participate in the process."

"Suffering does not have to be shame-based at all."

He talked quite a bit about shame.  Because shame is what caused him and causes us to keep our "shacks" closed off from others.  We are ashamed of the things that have happened to us as well as the things we've done.  We come to believe that no one, not even God could love us through that crap. 

Young talks about how powerful shame is and how it distorts our views.  He said this: "Shame destroys your ability to distinguish between a value statement and an observation."  He gave an example of his wife telling him to sort out the laundry, the colors from the whites.  That's what she said.  What he heard was a string of condemnations about his lack of abilities, attacking his character, etc.  Shame controlled his filters and continued to cause more damage, even when none was intended.

Young said that most of our hurt comes from relationships, but that healing also comes from relationships: "Hurt comes through our relationships, and I believe our healing comes through relationships as well.  That includes our relationship with God and with the people in our lives."

He reminded the listeners that each person has worth, that their life has meaning, and that they are loved.  He said that God will come into the shack to love and heal, if we allow.

It took a crossroads encounter in his life for him to face all the secrets, all the shame.  But he did it.  He said: "When the façade is gone, all you have is the shack.  The stuff you hate."  That's where it gets hard.  Dealing with that stuff.  But, we don't have to deal with it alone. 

Young talked about letting people "in" the "shack" helped the healing process. 

He mentioned that "seeds grow good in this kind of stuff". :)  Meaning that there was quite a bit of fertilizer (so to speak), so seeds of hope and healing and life were able to be planted and grow.

Cleaning from the inside out.  Through relationships.  With God and others.  Pretty cool stuff. 

One of Young's quotes that he says over and over: "There's nothing so dead that God can't grow something in it.  There's not anything so broken that God can't heal it, and there's not anything so lost that God can't find it."

Is there a "NO TRESPASS" sign on your shack (your soul) for God and/or others?  Or have you let God and others in for cleaning and healing?

Young said: "Shame is what causes you to hide."  Hmm.... reminds me of a couple that hid in a garden once, a long time ago.  Young said that love will pursue us because that is what love does.  Hmm.... that also reminds me of that couple.  Hidden in shame, God pursued them out of love and desire for relationship.

God still does that today.  God still pursues out of love.  God desires our shacks (souls) to be cleansed from within, not covered up on the outside. 

Three more quotes from Young:

"God does nothing that's not motivated by love."
"God respects his creations--us--way more than we do."
"To love, you must have the ability to choose."

Thankfully, God does give us the ability to choose. 

Well, those are my notes and thoughts from last night's video interview with the author of The Shack.  It gave me much to think about.  At one point Young said about himself: "No secrets."  I thought, 'integrity!'  

We can all relate to façades, shame, secrets, hurt, etc.  Those façades don't really protect us, they just keep us from beginning to heal.  Learning to live without masks isn't easy, but it is possible.  Allowing God and others into our "shack" isn't easy, but it is possible.  And, you know what?!?!  God loves us through into healing!!  And, when God sends folks to help out, we can trust God's judgment. 

May seeds of love, joy, and healing grow from whatever crap is in your shack.

May you allow God and others to be with you through the cleansing process. 

There is freedom when the bonds of shame are broken.

This isn't an easy part of the journey.  It's painful.  But it's a type of pain that leads to healing.  It's worth it.  I've had a lot of the crap cleaned out of my shack over the years.  God and others are still working to help it get clean and stay clean. 

May there be healing in your soul this day on your journey,


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Here Goes.... Faith, Hope, Love.

It's been a few days.  Actually, it's been over a week.  Whew.  That's a long time for me to go without writing.  Well, I have been writing, just not blogging.  I've been writing in my journal.  And, I finished up my "issue/controversy" paper for my polity/discipline course.  It was difficult to streamline that paper to 4 pages.  "3-4 pages maximum" was the requirement.  That didn't give me enough room to even get going. :)  So, I hope to continue the topic in the "big" research paper.  That, plus normal homework, plus my daughter's Spring Break.  Well, it's been a little difficult to find time to sit at the computer and write.

So, what to write?  In a few posts back I mentioned that I had heard several songs on the radio and that I had journaled some things I might share.  I think at least one of those songs will come out in this blog.  Some of the journal might too. 

Ah, I know!  I need to share my new notebook with you!  It's really awesome.  I found it on clearance last week at Target.  It has an old-fashioned typewriter on the front of it with the wording "note to self" above laid out in the old-type keys.  I learned to type on a manual typewriter (in 7th grade, 1977), so this notebook got my attention!  Check it out:

So, that's my new notebook.  I had to have something to write in.  I had actually left home without any way to record writing... no notebook, not even my computer notebook. 

I've been doing quite a bit of reflecting.  In my reflecting, I've realized that I've become more and more passionate as I continue on my journey.  I'm passionate about my personal and spiritual growth as well as passionate about people and helping them learn and grow, whether it is learning a foreign language or helping them along their journey.  I came across a website that listed 20 essential habits of highly passionate people that caught my attention:  Interesting reading. 

I've been more intentional since 2006 on my journey as well.  When the call to go "deeper" rumbled within my heart, mind, and soul, I didn't know where it would lead.  I still don't.  I do know that I am on an intentional path to be a follower of Christ-- to learn, to grow, to love God and others, to serve, to be.  I fall short.  I fail.  I seek reconciliation, forgiveness, healing, and restoration.  I get back up.  I continue the journey.  And, knowing that I cannot do it alone, nor am I (or anyone else) called to do it alone, I have attempted to live out my faith journey in community.  

Community can be transient.  I'm being reminded of that these days.  A mentor/friend will be leaving this area in June for the Blue Ridge Mountain area.  Other relationships have just not been the same over the past months.  There is a rumbling underneath the surface.  I'm not sure what is going on.  Why?  For what purpose?  Where have I failed?  What have I done or not done?  I'm reminded of a camp song that we sang at the campfire, especially at the end of the camp session.   I'll have to get my Skyline buddies to help me out.  All I remember is:  

People come, people go
moving fast or moving slow
People come, people go
some leave footprints in the snow
but in the end, you will find, some leave footprints on your mind 

I've probably botched the chorus.  Actually, I know I have.  I'm trying to remember back into the 70's and 80's here.  Where is Polly Cameron and her singing when you need her??  I've googled for lyrics, but can't find them.   

Well, let me get to a song that I've heard recently and one for which I can actually post the lyrics.  This song is "Here Goes" by Bebo Norman.  I've heard it a couple of times in the past week and it resonates within me.

Never got anywhere
By running away
Never learned anything
Without anything
without a mistake
Never loved anyone
By playing it safe
It's a long way down, but
I'm here right now, so...

Here goes nothing,
Here goes everything
Gotta reach for something
or you'll fall for anything
Take a breath,
Take a step,
What comes next
God only knows
But here goes

I don't wanna turn around
and wonder what happened
Never lost and never found
Are one and the same
I wanna run across the battle line
And take my chances
Not the long way 'round
When I'm here right now

Here goes nothing,
Here goes everything
Gotta reach for something
or you'll fall for anything
Take a breath,
Take a step,
What comes next
God only knows
But here goes
Bridge: What good is chance not taken,
What good is life not living,
What good is love not given?

Here goes nothing,
Here goes everything
Gotta reach for something
or you'll fall for anything
Here goes nothing,
Here goes everything
Gotta reach for something
or you'll fall for anything
Take a breath,
Take a step
What comes next
God only knows
But here goes
And God only knows
But here goes

Here goes what?  That's my question.  The song says, "God only knows".  The song resonates with me because I've been doing quite a bit of faith walking and taking those steps.  Steps that have led me back into seminary. Steps that have led me into spiritual direction. Steps that are leading me into a 2 year bilingual academy.  Steps that have led me into blogging.  Steps that are leading me to dive into helping to awaken lay speaking ministry in our district.  Honestly, I feel that I've taken enough faith steps, leaps, and dives.  My trust falls and trust dives have gotten a tremendous workout.  So, why does this song resonate within my heart, mind, and soul?  Why does it feel that I'm about to have to trust God even more?!?!

Faith.  Hope.  Love.  The theme for the recent United Methodist Women's (UMW) District retreat (and overall theme for the UMW this year).  It was good to get away to Camp Lookout and have the opportunity to be in Creation and to hear some good teaching, eat some good food, and enjoy some good fellowship.  (I got to apply some of what I had read from the Kevin Witt article that I posted a few posts back.)

Here are some things I got out of the teaching.  Psalm 51 and Psalm 139 were shared (both being important in my life).  The Runaway Bunny was read to us at the last session.  I've written about that book before.  It is a marker in my life. 

Fatih-- deeper self cannot be open to sacred unless it is cleared out and cleansed out. (Psalm 51).  Faith is relationship.  Trusting God to be faithful.   A rock is an image of faith.  Be open to mending as needed.

Hope--attitude.  Hope pulls us through difficult times and is discovered in unexpected places.  Three attitudes support hope: patience, courage, and persistence.   Hope in Hebrew means 'to twist', 'to twine'.  We made "life lines" by braiding three strands of yarn together.   They were put on the altar and we took someone else's lifeline as a reminder of hope.  The oak tree is a symbol of hope as well.  Looking at an acorn and not knowing what it will be exactly like when it grows, we can believe and have hope that it will grow.  What might this oak tree look like in 5, 10, 15 years?  What will I look like??  Nurture hope in self and others.

Love--going through losses, losing one's heart.  What are my treasures?  What is important to me?  What stuff do we need to throw out that is junking up our hearts?  What do we need to keep?  We lose our hearts at times for a while.  Finding unconditional love.  Love is action.  It has to be given away in order to be received back.  The Runaway Bunny.  God loves us with all of God's being.

It all spoke to me.  It ministered to me.  It provided balm for my soul.  I still don't know where I'm heading.  I still don't have answers to life's situations.  But, I do know that God worked it out for me to be up there on the mountain.  And, I know that God has allowed me to hear not just this song that I've mentioned by Bebo Norman, but others, that have touched me.  

And, all I know to do is to continue on.  I hear Micah 6:8 echoing in my mind: "And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."  (that's my not-so-perfect no-major-printed version)

As I continue on my journey, I hope to continue to love God and others well.  I hope to be open to God's love as well as love of others.  I hope to continue living out opportunities to be with the marginalized, the poor, those that are considered "the least, the last, the lost".  I will do my best to journey onward in integrity of who God has created me to be, even when it is painful.  (I'm reading a great book on this: If You Know Who You Are, You'll Know What To Do: Living With Integrity by Ronald J. Greer.  More on this later.)

This seems to be a season of life for me.  As I recently read in John Ortberg's book The Life You've Always Wanted: spiritual disciplines for ordinary people,  I can learn and grow through this season.  Ortberg writes: "Whatever our season of life, it offers its own opportunities and challenges for spiritual growth.  Instead of wishing we were in another season, we ought to find out what this one offers." (54)

So, here goes!  I'm going to live into this season.  It is part of the journey and part of the adventure.  I may feel more like a child than a warrior (Twila Paris), but I will live into life with all the faith, hope, and love that I have.  I've got my Lifeline.  And so, I ask: On belay?  And, I know God will answer:  belay on!

May there be faith, hope, and love on your journey, 


Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 17th, St. Patrick's Day. The Breastplate of St. Patrick.

I learned a new prayer this week, "St. Patrick's Prayer".  At first, I was introduced to the portion that many might know (though this was the first for me).
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
That portion of the prayer in itself is powerful.  Then, I was introduced to the entire "Breastplate of St. Patrick".  It is rather lengthy, but I found it to be quite powerful as well.  I found this version at:
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.
I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism,
through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial,
through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim
in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendour of Fire,
speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea,
stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me,
God's host to secure me:
against snares of devils, against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature, against everyone who
shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul, against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry,
against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man's body and soul.

Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning,
against drowning, against wounding,
so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of Christ. May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The version I read had "I arise" though I have noticed some versions say "I bind unto myself today" or "I bind this day".  The "Christ" section differed as well.  For example, here's a different version than the one I posted at the beginning:
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
This prayer was composed in 433.  It is also known by the name "The Deer's Cry" as St. Patrick reportedly passed without harm because a deer and its fawns captured the attention of those in waiting.  This is mentioned as well as the explanation of what a "lorica" is (a tunic) here:
Above the explanation you will see the "Breastplate of St. Patrick" in a visual art form.
There are also musical versions of this.  "I Bind Unto Myself Today" in the Anglican Church Hymn Book (#68) is one example.  Scroll to the bottom of this link for information:
For the visual as well as the auditory learner, here is a youtube link that I enjoyed.  You might (or might not).  There is some beautifule scenery/landscape.
Well, it's amazing what one can learn when one is introduced to something new.  There is a possibility that I've heard the more popular portion before, but it's not something I've ever committed to memory or tucked away in my Bible.   I think I'll start with the smaller portion as far as committing to memory. :)
I could link the "breastplate" term to the "armor of God" in Ephesians 6, but this is fairly long already.  So, I'll allow you to do the "linking" this time. :)  [How's that for a teacher?]
May Christ be with you on your journey,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Going Deeper By Going Away" by Kevin Witt

I subscribe to "iTeach" which is support for Christian educators.  They send e-mails with articles from time to time.  Today's e-mail and article spoke to me (as I enjoy both going deeper and going away) and I wanted to share it.  There wasn't a link from which I could share it, so I'm copying and pasting and supplying all the information. 

iTeach is a toolbox of wisdom to develop, nurture and encourage teachers, small group leaders and pastors in their teaching ministry.

Going Deeper By Going Away
By Kevin Witt 
In observing the life of Jesus, we notice a clear pattern of going away, in order to go deeper with God. The choice is made by our Lord numerous times in Scripture to seek out a place and a pace different from the normal rigors and responsibilities of his life, even when people’s needs were not yet fully met. He went away to quieter places in the natural world to pray and to reflect more deeply on the meaning of his life. This deliberate pattern of spiritual retreat contributed greatly to his effectiveness as a spiritual leader and teacher.

The teaching of the Sabbath and Jesus’ example of retreats invites us to enter places apart from our normal surrounding and to embrace rhythms and understandings counterintuitive to our harried culture. By encouraging those in our congregations to go on retreat, they, also, learn some essentials of faith and discipleship through direct experience. When we model the practice ourselves, we guide and inspire them to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Retreats teach persons to receive through letting go, to move closer by being still, to hear the Divine Word in silence, to move forward through retreat, to act on God’s behalf by resting, to learn community from solitude and strangers, and to discover ways to be more present at home by taking time away. Jesus’ teaching invites people to release their grasp of their customary patterns in order to discover deeper dimensions of life. This is part of the meaning of his promise - “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:24). These dichotomies are part of the reason that faith-based retreats are so dynamic and influential.

Retreat settings provide unparalleled opportunities to focus and be attentive to God, to each other, and to our own hearts as an intentional way to take our discipleship to a new level. Many camp and retreat centers have a schedule of programs and events already planned that are available to your church members and leaders as part of the UM connection. Folks looking for congregations with multiple options in terms of faith forming opportunities would find these offerings to be an added asset of your congregation. Retreats are a wonderful element to incorporate into every congregation’s Christian education and spiritual formation plans.
Questions for Moving Forward:
  1. When you consider the members of your congregation, how might a camp or retreat help them move deeper in their connection with God, each other, and a life of Christian discipleship? What type of retreat or retreat theme would be particularly powerful related to the current vision and goals of your local church?
  2. Have you visited or been in contact with your local United Methodist Camp and Retreat Center about any assistance they may be able to provide to a team from your church that may be considering offering a camp or retreat for groups within your local church?
  3. Have you considered placing a link on your own local church website entitled “Our Camp and Retreat Program” that would take members and prospective members seamlessly to the many offerings available to them in your local region by linking them to the camp and retreat ministry websites of your conference that your local church and others make possible collaboratively?
--Rev. Kevin Witt is Director, Office of Camp and Retreat Ministries at the General Board of Discipleship in Nashville, TN

Saturday, March 12, 2011

North Chickamauga Creek and Gorge..... Kayakers

After Charlotte's piano class, we headed back to N. Chick (aka North Chickamauga Pocket Wilderness, aka North Chickamauga Creek and Gorge).  Another beautiful day, even warmer than yesterday.  Today is shorts and t-shirts weather.  Though hoping to see some kayakers with the water flowing, we were just going over to get out in the woods and be near water.

As we were standing on a rock by the creek, lo and behold, what is coming downstream but a group of bright kayaks!  YEAH!!  I maneuvered myself down to a lower rock closer to the water so I could get better pictures.  And take pictures I did. 

Unfortunately, I have no clue who these kayaker dudes are.  If, by some very odd chance, you are one of the kayakers and you happen to read this, let me know who you are and I'll label the pictures.  Thanks!

Some of today's pictures:
Charlotte standing on the rock

looking downstream
Charlotte sitting on the rock

here come the kayakers

            looking upstream


So, you may be wondering why this kayak passion?!  Well, I mentioned in the previous post that I am a "wanna-be" kayaker.  When I was young and attended camp, I got to kayak in small red kayaks and I got to canoe.

Fast forward MANY years from my camp days as a camper.  Sometime between 2001 and 2004, I attended a local paddling weekend sponsored by the local paddling club.  We camped out at a campground on the Hiwassee River and spent two days paddling.  I learned the basics going down the Hiwassee and a portion of the Ocoee.  I learned how you properly "swim" a river as I did that the majority of my time on the Hiwassee.  I learned how to get out of the kayak when I'm upside down.  I had a blast doing it though my body turned all shades of purples, blacks, and blues. 

I even learned some life lessons that weekend.   For some reason, I thought as an adult learner, I should simply be able to "get it".  I was losing patience with myself as I kept struggling and falling over.  One of the instructors reminded me that I was a novice by asking me how long I had been doing this.  I had to be honest with myself and recognize that my skill level was not that of a trained adult in this area.  I had to accept that it was okay and to keep on learning and trying. 

That revelation not only helped me in life learning, but in teaching.  It helped me relate to learners as they came at language learning from different skill levels.  As a teacher, I tried to learn new things out of my comfort zone and skill level often so I could remember what it was like to be a new learner.

It's a good reminder that we cannot be experts at all things, especially at that which we don't strive.  With effort, patience, time, perseverance, and maybe some bruises from the bumps along the way, we can make it.  We might not be the best in that field, but we can at least learn new things. 

I have applied this concept on my spiritual journey as well.  There are areas of spiritual practices that are harder for me, such as silence.  However, I am learning that as I spend time in silence I am able to grow a little bit in that area.  Silence enables me to listen more clearly.  As I practice this means of grace, my "muscles" in this area become stronger.  I find that I am able to spend more time in silence now than in the past.  This doesn't mean I have it down, it simply means I'm on the journey to growing in this area.

And you thought the entire blog was about kayaking.  Well, everything can have connections to something else.  I didn't spend a lot of time on the spiritual stuff this time, but I did throw it in.  I can't help but to do that as I'm connected.  I'm not divided up into little compartments into which I can put spiritual things in one place and the rest of life in another.  It is all one place.  Therefore, the spiritual may flow from the other or the other may flow from the spiritual.

I haven't kayaked in quite a while.  After that camping, paddling weekend I did go to several roll practices that they had in the area, some at an indoor pool, some at the lake.  At one of those roll practices, a younger person helped with my roll by lifting my paddle slightly high as I came up.  I had impingement shoulder problems after that.  I got some physical therapy and some shots and worked the bursitis and impingement back to shape.  However, last year that shoulder and the other one decided to start acting up again.

I do hope to get in a boat again.  It is a thrill to take a run down a swollen creek or a river.  Just looking at those guys makes me want to do it again.  And, if I can't do it in a kayak, maybe I can ride in bigger boat with others doing the paddling.  (I've gotten to whitewater raft too-- here in the states AND in Costa Rica-- LOVE IT!) 

Meanwhile, I may have to settle for getting my motorcycle back into running condition and taking that out on the road so I can feel the air flowing.  I think my shoulders are ready for riding!

Whether it's on the water, on two wheels, on two feet.... however you choose to interact with creation, may your journey include some outdoor time! 


PS-- Remember to be patient with yourself when you are learning something new.  Seek out others learning to do the same thing so that you will have companions on your journey.

Several hours at the creek... roaring waters and waiting

Yesterday (March 11), I was able to spend several hours down by the creek at one of my favorite hiking spots.  I'm going to share my journal entry and add to it-- pictures, lyrics, and some quotes from a book I read while there.

My journal entry:


After doc visit, something inside me said "outdoors", so I headed to one of my places, N. Chick.  I thought it would make for some good pictures with all the rain we've had.  As I drove in, kayakers were preparing their gear.  An added bonus to being outside in God's creation!  While I await their arrival down the swollen creek, I'm listening to the almost deafening roar of the swift flowing water as it passes over and through the rocks.  I love it.  It's sunny and slightly breezy.  I have paper on which to write, a book to read, the Word of God, and I'm sitting on a rock.  Ahh... If only I had stopped to grab lunch.  Is it too late to claim that I was going to fast from lunch so at to spend contemplative time with God?! :)

There are so many things on my mind.  The biggest (I think) is recognizing that once again I have entered a waiting period.  I have faithfully and obediently taken the steps to apply to seminary (and to actually take courses) as well as to apply to the 2 year bilingual academy and to commit to it.  Now, I wait.  However, my waiting is not passive.  I am actively learning, seeking, growing, serving, etc. as I wait.  There is a song I've heard a few times on the radio.  All I remember at the moment are the words "I will serve you in the waiting."  I'll look up the rest of the lyrics later.

Many, many years ago when I taught languages at Bryan College, I did a word study on "wait".  I'm sure those results are in a file somewhere in one of my boxes.  One thing I learned back them was that the word "wait" was closely related to the word "hope".  That made sense to me as the Spanish word esperar can mean both "to wait" and "to hope".  Maybe I'll do another study now that I've learned about where I can easily check on words and find out all kinds of information.  (This resource has been great over the past several years!)

Waiting... It's preparation time, growing time, learning time, trying out my wings in new areas to see if that's where I'm created to fly.  I have some idea, but a very dim picture.  Maybe I'll be more courageous as my friend in camel land and come up with a description that fits my passions, gifts, and grace and say 'this is what I'm called to do'.  And, maybe, there will be a place for me to do it.  I believe I will see more clearly as time goes on.

Meanwhile, my soul rests.  My soul rests even though the waters around me are flowing and churning.  There is peace.  Now, where are those kayakers? :) 



So, I waited about 2 1/2 hours for those kayakers before I had to head out for a prior commitment as a reading volunteer for some 4th graders.   I may go back out today and see if anyone is on the creek in their kayaks.  I love watching kayakers.  I have some decent pictures from the Ocoee one July 4th, but I digress.  My interest in kayaking?  I've tried it.  I'm still a wanna-be.  But, with frozen shoulders and pain, well.... it's going to be a while before I get back in a kayak.

Now, here are some pictures from my outing yesterday at the North Chickamauga segment of the Cumberland Trail.

looking upstream

looking downstream

just thought this was cool looking

me looking into sun with upstream view behind me

There were a couple of other things I jotted down on my notebook paper before putting it up to read.  I looked up two verses that related to what I was thinking and experiencing.

Isaiah 55:1 (NIV)-- "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;"

Psalm 130:5 (NIV)--"I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope."

The song that came to mind while I was writing is by John Waller.  The title is "While I am Waiting".  If you saw the movie Fireproof, then you may be familiar with the song.  As I re-listen to the song and read the lyrics, I see why this song "popped" into my head yesterday. 

Here are the lyrics and a link to listen to the song:

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience
While I'm waiting
I will serve You
While I'm waiting
I will worship
While I'm waiting
I will not faint
I'll be running the race
Even while I wait

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it's not easy
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve you while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting on You, Lord
While at the creek, I did spend some time reading a book as I mentioned up above.  I thought I might share some of the quotes and thoughts here, but I'll share some from that in another post.  This one is long enough.  Oops.  That means I'm leaving you, the reader, waiting.  (Throwing in a little humor, albeit poor and corny.)
May your soul find peace and rest along the journey, even during the waiting,

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thoughts about Rain, Salvation, Dairy Queen, and Ash Wednesday

Rain.  We've been getting so much of it lately that the creeks are rising, the roads are covered with water from the ditches, and fences are covered in low-lying areas.  Coming out of my neighborhood this morning, I noticed the water flowing so rapidly down the road that it was carrying some rocks and pebbles from a dirt driveway.  Some of the rocks were stabilized enough to where the water shot up and over them.  Since I was at a stop sign, I took a moment to grab a picture of it.

There is no deep significance in this abundant flow of water.  However, I could start thinking deeper and talk about "living water". 

But, my thoughts jump to a book I read recently, Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, by Susan Gregg Gilmore.

I read it for a monthly book club I attend.  We read all kinds of books.  Anyway, the author was able to come to our meeting and that added tremendously to our discussion.  She shared her background of how she came into writing and how her first book came to be.  It was very interesting and inspiring.  I have wanted to write since I was probably five years old.  I began writing in journals at an early age, at first taking down notes from family travels as we visited state parks and camp grounds.  So, for me to hear Susan's story and to hear how she came into writing... well, it gave this wanna-be hope.

As for the book, it is set in Ringgold, GA.  Ringgold, GA is a small town north of my hometown, Dalton, GA.  There were many things in the book I could relate to, that anyone can relate to.  How do I talk about the book without being a book spoiler?  Hmmm..... let me say that I could hear the characters speak and through them I was able to enter into their lives.  Life is all through this novel.  On one hand, you can read it as is, for pure enjoyment.  On the other hand, you can read it at a deeper level and allow the wisdom, the insight, the challenge to get under your skin and stay with you a while.  On the front cover of the novel is this statement: "Sometimes you have to return to the place where you began, to arrive at the place where you belong."

There were references to the Varsity, to Soddy Daisy, to Chattanooga, to Atlanta, to Calhoun, to Dalton, etc.  These references, along with the likeable characters, their stories, and their interactions with one another made the book come alive for me.  There are themes of life, death, forgiveness, friendship, faith, growing up, broken hearts, sin, redemption, etc.

I'll share a few of the things that I marked.  Yes, I marked/flagged the book.  I decided not to underline this time, but instead used those handy rectangle flags to place over the sections that caught my attention.  I felt slightly geekish at the book club meeting, but that's okay.

An example of something that just made me chuckle because I could visualize it was Catherine Grace talking about Gloria Jean's: "Every day she'd tease and pile her hair on the top of her head and then spray it in place.  Not even the wind blowing before a thunderstorm could knock a hair on her head loose.  She kept a small bottle of Aqua Net in her purse because a girl, she said, had to be prepared for any emergency." (35)

Here's one of the nuggets of life's truths that Catherine Grace shares: "Leaving sure makes you rethink your friends and your enemies alike." (139)

Catherine Grace has come back into town for a family emergency.  She is sitting on a picnic table in the cold eating a Dilly Bar at the local Dairy Queen.  Her thoughts about life bring her to this conclusion: "With the very last bite of my Dilly Bar in my mouth, I became more convinced that my life was about to change in a way that I had not come close to imagining.  And I had a strange, call it prophetic, feeling that I was heading into a storm of biblical proportions." (256)

Those are just a few of the nuggets that I flagged.  I could go on and talk about the moonshine, the strawberry jam, the special tea recipe (that I know and love as Russian Tea-- page 88). 

Why did this book grab me?  Is it simply because I, too, am from a small town and vowed to leave and not go back?  (Which I did, by the way.  I left for college, married, and planned to not return.  However, after my divorce and with an infant, there was a time when I needed a place to live for a few months between houses and I moved back home with my parents.)  Is it because I recognized so many places and personality types?  Or, is it something more? 

Today is Ash Wednesday.  I attend a church that celebrates the tradition of imposing ashes (from last year's palm branches from Palm Sunday) on one's forehead as an outward symbol of this lenten season of penitence, self-examination, and preparation.  I had planned to simply go and attend the service, but was called and asked to be part of the service by helping put the ashes on those in attendance.  At the risk of sounding geeky, I will say that I truly enjoy participating in services-- from reading Scripture, to serving the elements of the Lord's Supper, to praying the pastoral prayer, and now... to helping with the ashes.  (As I've had the opportunity to lay speak several times, I will also admit to enjoying that too.)

A responsive version of Psalm 51 was used from the hymnal.  Psalm 51 is a favorite of mine as the psalmist asks for a new heart to be created within and to be restored.  Keith Green, the father of Christian contemporary music, wrote a great song based on this Psalm.

The New Testament lesson Scripture was from 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2--

"We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.  For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”  I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation." (NIV)

Those words reminded me that I am an ambassador for Christ, that I am not to receive God's grace in vain, and that now is the day of salvation.  It just sort of struck me.  I don't know really why, what, or how.... it just did.

And, then it was time to do my part along with another pastor.  Dip the thumb in the water, then in the ashes (we didn't have the ashes already mixed with the oil, which is what I am used to).  As each person came up, we made the cross on their foreheads saying: "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.  Repent and believe the gospel."
It was powerful and special to serve in this way, not unlike serving communion to the guests at our wedding on March 6, 2004.   Something happened during this time.  As my husband, friends, fellow church goers came up and allowed me to place the cross on them, something happened.  There was a moment in which there was a powerful something.  I knew it, I felt it.  I really cannot explain it though.  All I knew was that the Holy Spirit was present.  And all I could do was one, hold back tears that came from nowhere; two, do my "job" of putting on the ashes and saying (hopefully) the right words; and three, saying "thank you, Jesus."  I don't know if the person standing in front of me had any clue that any of this was going on.  Was it a God moment for me, for that person, for us both?  Who knows?  I don't have to or need to know.

There are many things I don't understand about my life right now.  I am simply attempting to faithfully take each next step.  I'm learning to live into the questions, to not try to answer them all. 

The prayer of confession included these words: "at the opening of this season of penitence, we pray for courage and honesty, that our self-examination may be searching and specific rather than safely general".

The closing hymn tonight was "Have Thine Own Way, Lord". 

How does tonight fit in with my adventurous journey?  I don't know.  I can, however, somewhat relate to what Catherine Grace said that night on the picnic table at the Dairy Queen: "I became more convinced that my life was about to change in a way that I had not come close to imagining.  And I had a strange, call it prophetic, feeling that I was heading into a storm of biblical proportions." (256)

May your journey include courage, honesty, and self-examination,


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Marcela Gándara's Music ministers to my soul

I first became aware of Marcela Gándara's music when Pastor Edgar Ponce and his wife Norma came to the United States in the Fall of 2007.  I met them in Knoxville and we drove to Chattanooga where they had several speaking engagements set up.  On the way, we listened to one of Norma's CDs, and there was a song by Marcela Gándara, «Un viaje largo».  It was special to her.  It has become special to me.

A very powerful and moving song.  Lest you think you need to know Spanish to be moved by this artist, I have read reviews from people that don't know the language, yet have been touched and moved by her singing.   After looking into her songs, I ordered the CD, «Más que un anhelo» with the song «Un viaje largo» on it.

Another song, «Una aventura», caught my attention.  It was powerful too.  Things were working out for me to lead a mission trip for the summer of 2008 to Costa Rica.  The team was coming together as well.  I asked one of the ladies who sings heavenly if she thought she could prepare two songs in Spanish.  She accepted the challenge and did a wonderful job of it! 

What a blessing to be at Pastor Edgar's church in Los Guido and to be able to minister to them in song as part of the service.  Norma was surprised and blessed.  And, for my missionary team partner/!  What a blessing to hear her sing in Spanish, even though that's not one of her languages.

Though I've been focusing on those two songs on Marcela Gándara's album, a trip a couple of months ago allowed me some driving time and the opportunity to find a song I hadn't heard before.  Another powerful song.  «Dame tus ojos»

I find myself often listening to this song as I drive around town.  I cannot listen to it without it penetrating my heart, my mind, my soul and therefore causing brokenness as I recognize the distance between who I am and who I desire to become like.  I want eyes to see, words to speak, and to be like Christ.  I want to be changed by Christ's love. 

Translated into English (my version):

Give me Your eyes, I want to see
Give me Your words, I want to speak
Give me Your semblance/being
Give me Your feet, I want to go
Give me Your wishes to feel
Give me Your semblance/being
Give me what I need to be like You

Give me Your voice, Give me your breath
Take my time, it is for you
Give me the path that I should follow
Give me Your dreams, Your desires, Your thoughts, Your feeling
Give me Your life to live

Let me see what You see, Give me Your grace, Your power
Give me Your heart.  Let me see in Your inner being, in order to be changed
by your love... Give me Your heart


Here is a link to the song by Jesús Adrian Romero and Marcela Gándara:

Lyrics in Spanish: (you never know who may be reading this and can understand Spanish)

Dame tus ojos quiero ver, dame tus palabras quiero hablar, dame tu parecer...
Dame tus pies, yo quiero ir, dame tus deseos para sentir, dame tu parecer.
Dame lo que necesito, para ser como tú...

Dame tu voz, dame tu aliento, toma mi tiempo es para ti,
dame el camino que debo seguir.
Dame tus sueños, tus anhelos, tus pensamientos, tu sentir,
dame tu vida, para vivir...

Déjame ver lo que tú ves, dame de tu gracia, tu poder...
dame tu corazón. Déjame ver en tu interior, para ser cambiado,
por tu amor... dame tu corazón...

Dame lo que necesito para ser como tú.
Dame tu voz, dame tu aliento, toma mi tiempo es para ti,
dame el camino que debo seguir.
Dame tus sueños, tus anhelos, tus pensamientos,
tu sentir, dame tu vida para vivir.

Dame tus ojos, quiero ver... dame tu parecer...

Journeying on down the road--sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish. 

Sometimes I'm focusing on the song «Una aventura» ("An Adventure").  At other times, «Un viaje largo» ("A long journey" NOTE:  I am choosing "journey over "trip" for «viaje»)).  But for today and for the recent past, the focus has been on «Dame tus ojos» ("Give me Your Eyes").

Even if Spanish isn't one of your languages, I hope you'll take some time to listen to the song.  When you do, you may wonder why or how it has captured me because it may not capture you.  That's okay.   God uses different things to minister to us and to minister through us.

As I prepare for a bilingual 2 year academy, I have a feeling I'll be using more and more Spanish on this «jornada» ("journey").  Don't worry, I don't  believe I'll go into teacher-mode and attempt to teach you, the reader, lots of Spanish.  Nor do I plan to switch over into writing in Spanish.  Though, I guess I could start another blog in Spanish..... hmmmm.... But that might cause procrastination from my studies or other responsibilities.  And that would NOT be good.

Time to close this one out!!

Bendiciones en tu jornada, (Blessings on your journey)


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy March 1st! March, the month of memories.

March is already here?!?! This year is flying by!!  Or, is it slipping by??  I guess that would depend on your perspective.  For me, it is flying by.

March.  Wow!   Really?!?!

For many, March is "March Madness".  But, I'm not that into basketball, so that's not my focus.

March has been the dreaded month in our family for years as it is the month in which family members tend to die.

When I was in 2nd grade (1972), my grandfather died.  I really never got the chance to know him well, though he always put bows on our heads from gifts at Christmas or birthdays.  His library would make any bibliophile drool.  I got to know him mainly through my older cousins, my grandmother, and my dad.  I wish I could have known him better.  He came from a large family that grew up on a farm.  From those humble beginnings, he worked his way through life and school to became a lawyer.

When I was in 7th grade (1977) on spring break vacation, my aunt died at the young age of 33.  Because spring break vacation had really been canceled due to snow, us kids were told that if we went back for the funeral we would also have to go back to school.  It would have been a long trip from where we were, so we stayed while the adults went back and a friend of the family stayed with us.   My aunt was great!  She was still living in my hometown and I had been getting to know her more and more.  She and my uncle and my cousin lived in the "old" house that my grandparents had lived in, next door to where my grandmother was living.  Her death was tremendously difficult for me.

In 1988, my grandmother died.  I had graduated college, had married, and was living on Long Island at this time.  Of the three, I had gotten to know my grandmother best.  We were the only family left in the hometown so we visited with Nana quite a bit.  Nana taught me how to play gin and gin rummy.  She was a tough player to beat.  I don't think I won very often.  It didn't matter.  She would correct my grammar.   Maybe that's why I needed to pick up Spanish and French... English was too difficult for me and I kept messing it up.  Nana was the matriarch of the family.  She helped the family get together for Christmastimes in Colorado.  She helped my cousin and I take off down to Mexico one summer for one of the best trips ever!  Losing Nana wasn't easy.  It is never easy to lose loved ones.

So, you see.... March brings on many memories for me.  Starting early in the month and going through about mid-month.  Once we get past mid-month-ish, whew.   It's safe to breathe again.

But March doesn't only hold sad memories.

In 1989 a childhood friend from 6th grade married and I was in her wedding.  That brought something to celebrate in March.   Though I don't remember a whole lot from that celebration, I remember we wore blue dresses and had lots of fun getting ready. 

In 2004 I remarried, on March 6th (I have the hardest time remembering that date!).  This definitely brings something to celebrate in March.  The friend who married in March many years ago and her husband came and sang at my wedding (this was the 2nd time she blessed me with this gift--long story).  That was a blessing.  My new husband and I served communion to our guests as our first act of service as husband and wife.  That was a blessing.  A dear friend made our communion set.  I have shown a picture of it before.  Our daughter, 3 years old at the time, was our flower girl.  She was precious!  Friends, family, and coworkers made that day very special in many, many ways.

We took off to Costa Rica for our honeymoon, so that is another great memory for that same year in March as we hiked, snorkeled, ziplined, drove around San José in a rental car, rode horses, saw waterfalls, drank Costa Rican coffee....

March isn't all that bad.  It just sometimes feels that way.    When enough bad things happen around the same time, you start to wonder, you start to have that feeling. 

But, we are not left to have to live with that wonder or that feeling.  Even though terrible things happen, we can live through them with strength that flows from deep within.  I realize that sounds a little odd.  But I know it to be true.  I know it because I have lived it.  Not just once, but several times.

The time that it struck me most though was the first time.  Another family situation.  Not in March. 

It was summer time.  I was teaching summer sessions at the college where I worked and was interim youth director at our church.   One day I got a call.  My brother had been in a dirt car racing accident in our hometown and was in the hospital; he was not expected to live.  I later learned that the EMTs had covered him with a sheet on the track.  His car had split in two.  Anyway, he was not in good shape, in ICU in a coma.  I was living about an hour and a half north.  I drove down as often as I could, spending hours on the road and hours in the ICU waiting room.

Oddly, during this entire time, there was a deep peace inside me.  I listened to Twila Paris' "The joy of the Lord" as I drove back and forth.  There was much uncertainty surrounding my brother's situation and his life.  The injuries were severe and numerous.  My brother came out of that coma.  When he was able to speak again, he said that there must be a reason that he was alive.  He continues to have a tough journey because of injuries from that accident, but he is here.

The point here is that, for me, during the darkest of times... during the unknown and uncertainties...there was peace and strength that ran deeper than I could imagine.  That came in part from prayers, from the community of believers that surrounded me and supported me, and from my relationship in Christ as well.

So, when the hard times come... I'm counting on the community of faith, prayers, and Christ.  And, even if it sounds "odd", I will say "the joy of the Lord is my strength".

There IS joy in the journey!!  It's not some sort of puffed up, helium-filled balloon emotion.  Joy is something we can have through the good times and the difficult times.

It is a choice, though.  Something we have to decide that we want. 

May there be joy in your journey and may it provide strength for you!


Here are two songs by two folks that have ministered to me greatly over the years!!

Twila Paris--"The Joy of the Lord"

The joy of the Lord will be my strength
I will not falter, I will not faint
He is my Shepherd, I am not afraid
The joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord,
The joy of the Lord,
The joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord will be my strength
He will uphold me all of my days
I am surrounded by mercy and grace
And the joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord,
The joy of the Lord,
The joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord will be my strength
I will not waiver, walking by faith
He will be strong to deliver me safe
The joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord,
The joy of the Lord,
The joy of the Lord is my strength
Michael Card-- "Joy in the Journey"

   There is a joy in the journey
There's a light we can love on the way
There is a wonder and wildness to life
And freedom for those who obey

And all those who seek it shall find it
A pardon for all who believe
Hope for the hopeless and sight for the blind

To all who've been born in the Spirit
And who share incarnation with Him
Who belong to eternity stranded in time
And weary of struggling with sin

Forget not the hope that's before you
And never stop counting the cost
Remember the hopelessness when you were lost

There is a joy in the journey
There's a light we can love on the way
There is a wonder and wildness to life
And freedom for those who obey

And freedom for those who obey...