Thursday, October 31, 2013

A day of unexpected joys and surprises....

You wouldn't think that going for your yearly doctor appointment would turn into one of the highlights of your day, especially considering it was the ob-gyn appointment.

However, upon my arrival this morning to the office, I noticed the workers were dressed up in costume.  I saw a superman, a spider man, an underdog, several tutus.  They said, 'just wait until you see the doctors.'  Okay, I admit, that was a little scary. ☺

My nurse had bat stuff on her and was creatively using a skirt as a bat cape. She had a tiny pumpkin and a bat on her head.  I saw an "incredible" character in his bright red and yellow looking underwear/pajamas.

If you really want to know what I was thinking, it was this:  OF ALL DAYS for me to be "courteous" and leave my phone in the car.  Oh, the pictures I could have taken!! ☺

When my doctor came around the curtain, I was looking at batman.  6 pack abs, mask, etc.  Weird, but cool.  He did take off the mask to chat with me, but as I heard him in the hallway, without the mask, he was "Bruce".  He said the abs got in his way and he wasn't sure how long he'd be able to work in the outfit.

But it was a fun time.  It made an otherwise not so fun doctor visit fun. ☺

From there I went to visit some folks at different hospitals.  I was early to one hospital, having misread my email.  "on Tuesday" (I finally figured out) meant next week; it wasn't in reference to earlier this week.

At the next hospital, after finally finding parking on the top outside section of the parking deck, I made my way inside and ran into one of the ladies in the Bible Study I lead twice a month.  I was able to check in with her and see how she was doing and also see how the lady was doing who had been in the hospital, learning that she had been moved to rehab.  This hospital didn't have as many folks in costumes, but there were a few. 

I had a good visit with the folks I was there to visit and pray with and then headed out.  I enjoy hospital visits.  Long before I started seminary, I visited folks in the hospital... to be with them, to chat with them, to pray with them.  I still remember visiting Lucy one day.  She was someone I attended Grace UMC with.  I was visiting her and the hospital chaplain came by.  She told the chaplain her chaplain was already with her.  If folks want, I read Scripture.  Sometimes I'm not the best person for hospital visits.  If you've got stitches and I make you laugh, that can be painful.  But, visiting folks in the hospital is something I've done for many years and it's something I really enjoy doing.  It is a blessing to attempt to bring some love, light, and joy into the situation.... and it's an honor and privilege simply to be in the ministry of presence.   It's not just hospitals, but homes and living facilities too....  There have been some good God moments and thin spaces over the years.  But, for the most part, it's simply a time to simply be.

After that, I headed to Starbucks for my free... FREE... birthday drink from my rewards card.  I wasn't going to make it to taekwondo, so what better way to celebrate the last day of the month?!?!  A venti salted caramel mocha!  Good thing I walked two miles this morning!

When I walked into Starbucks, I noticed one worker had a necklace of green lights.  But, the worker taking my order seemed "normal" until I finally realized her outfit was a BI-LO outfit, with a "Walter" apron and nametag.  Funny how it took me a few minutes to realize that she was in costume.  Since I was heading to BI-LO next to shop and my husband works with them, it took a few minutes to register in my brain that she was out of place.  That made me smile.

Oh, the odd things in a day that can make one smile.  Costumes in unexpected places.  Visits to hospitals.  Free coffee drinks.

Another unexpected joy and surprise is that my blog for the month of October has gone over 5,000 hits.  That's a new record.  That is mind boggling and humbling for me. 

To cap off my day, here are words of wisdom from Jesus Calling from today:

"Learn to listen to Me even while you are listening to other people.  As they open their souls to your scrutiny, you are on holy ground.  You need the help of My Spirit to respond appropriately.  As him to think through you, live through you, love through you.  [...] Be a channel of My Love, Joy, and Peace by listening to Me as you listen to others." (October 31)

Scripture references: Exodus 3:3; 1 Corinthians 6:19; John 7:38-39

That is my prayer for each day.... that I listen to God so that as I listen to others, I will be that channel, that open vessel.

May you be blessed with unexpected joys and surprises along your journey and may you be a blessing to others as you listen to God while listening to others.

It is my prayer that we all grow into better listeners.

Blessings on your journey,


Warning..... Dangerous Waters

Yesterday my husband and I were walking the Riverwalk path.

In Chattanooga we are blessed to have a walking path that goes along the river.  It hasn't always been here.  It has grown in sections, much like the awesome Cumberland Hiking trail is growing these days.

Walkers, runners, and cyclists share the path along the river and through the scenery.

In addition to the scenery yesterday, the sign near the dam (at the top of the blog post) caught my attention anew. 

I've seen it before.

But yesterday, I knew I wanted to get a picture.

It clicked something in my brain as I looked at it. 

It occurred to me that this is the sign we might start using when we baptize folks.  If we don't have it over the baptismal area (whether that is a fountain, a tub, a river, a lake, a pool, etc.), we should at least start being honest with folks and talking about it.

The waters of baptism are dangerous. 

What?!?!  How?!?!

You see, baptism is an act of grace, bestowed (given) to us by God.  That act of grace unleashes freedom in our lives.  We are free to grow in our faith relationship with God and others.  And, it's dangerous. 

Once baptized, the "waters" of life don't automatically become smooth nor does everything work out according to our plans.  However, we are brought into a relationship that will truly work in us and through us the rest of our lives, if we are willing to learn and grow.

This isn't fleshed out in entirety.

This isn't based on a review of all the readings I've done on baptism, grace, or the Scriptures.

This is simply something that struck me yesterday.

I may flesh it out more one day.  It might even become a sermon one day.  Or, when I become ordained, you might see the picture next to whatever becomes the baptismal fount wherever I serve.

Anyway, I thought I'd share these few thoughts now.

I don't know what your thoughts or experiences are (or have been) with your faith journey, but for me, it continues to be an adventurous one.  And, yes, at times, it is (can be) dangerous.  

Danger can come from the outside world (situations beyond my control) or danger can come from my not paying attention to the relationships with God and others that are within my control. 

Dangerous times allow for vigilance, growth, learning and change.  They are reminders that I'm not in control.  Above all, I am reminded that God's grace is the sustaining factor in my life, regardless of the circumstances.

May the grace of God carry you through the dangerous waters.

Blessings on your journey,


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Academy withdrawals...

October is almost over.  That means quite a few things on many different levels.  But one of the things that it means for me is that I'm feeling the effects of not being in the 2 year Academy life rhythm. 

You might think since July would have been a time for Academy that I would have felt the effects then.  But, I was in a very buffered and safe zone at the time.  I had a board meeting with Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders (Hearts on Fire) and I attended SoulFeast at Lake Junaluska, NC (sponsored by The Upper Room).  So I didn't really feel the effects of missing my quarterly trek to Florida.

I meet with my spiritual director monthly.  That is something I started prior to the Academy.  That has been a tremendous blessing in my spiritual journey.   I go later this week.

When I'm able to do so, I join with a group of folks for centering prayer.  After the time of prayer, we either read slowly through a book or watch a video clip and discuss what we've read or heard.  I've only made it to one of the sessions recently because of my schedule and responsibilities.  The video we're currently watching is Richard Rohr talking on "Breathing Under Water".  The time I went, his words spoke to me exactly where I was.  I hope to get back to that group this week. 

I have my time walking in the woods, in creation.

There are times of reading, silence, and solitude at home.

I've even started reading my 3rd Robert Mulholland book, Shaped by the Word: The Power of Scriptural Formation, to assist my formational growth. Though I've been working on growing formationally for several years, this book is helpful and timely for me now. 

Yet, there still seems to be something missing.

And, I think it might have something to do with the bilingual atmosphere.  From the participants and speakers from Puerto Rico to our incredible worship time. 

It may also have to do with the worship atmosphere-- the themed altars and worship space with Jesus always there, dressed and ready for the occasion. 

I'm sure it has something to do with the table fellowship and the covenant group time.

And, I know it has something to do with what became sacred space for me, the Life Enrichment Center.  From my personal space that became "home", the labyrinth, the chapel, the Path of Silence, to the docks, to the nature trail, to seeing alligators, etc. 

I still "owe" my Academy evaluation to Donna.... it's coming.  I think you'll see that the Academy had a profound effect on me, from the moment I learned there was a bilingual 2 year Academy even being offered at the 5 day I attended to the first session through each and every session. 

I know my life has changed.  I have slowed down in many ways.  I have given up control.... or rather, I am learning and attempting to give up control and allow God to guide my steps. ☺  There is more peace... most days.

Yet, even now as I write, there is the rumbling of restlessness once again.  Is it because I am experiencing withdrawals?  Or is there some message deep inside attempting to work its way out?  It hasn't just been today.... it's been coming on for several days now.  Speaking Spanish with the Ecuador Manta group in Branson, MO helped some.... especially while listening to them play spiritual songs on their instruments.  That touched a deep place. 

Writing one of my covenant group peeps to let them know I was experiencing Academy withdrawals helped. ☺  Unfortunately, I'm unable to go to the 5 day in Puerto Rico next Spring or the 5 day in Florida. 

Being in community with fellow believers here helps too.  Sunday was a great day for that!  In two different worship communities!

Yet, somehow, I just can't shake the feeling that there is some shaping going on inside of me.  Shaping and changing that hasn't been made clear to me just yet.  Preparations for who knows what?!?! 

All I know to do at this time for me to stay focused is to live into this: "Be still, and know that I am God." ~Psalm 46:10

Blessings on your journey!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Circle of friends... a candle holder, a song, a life-long experience

This morning didn't turn out to be such a "normal" Monday morning.  On my way to meet my walking partner, my husband called and asked about his calendar he had left in the car with important work-related numbers in it.  The time was such that I couldn't turn around and go home.  He said he'd come get the calendar.

When I got to the designated walking area, my friend texted that she was running a little late.  Oops, I did have time to go back.  Oh, well.

My friend arrived and we walked along the path.  There were faint hints of leaves changing color, mostly reds.  The yellows were mild, if at all.  We're having a very late change in colors here in our area this year.

We walked a mile and a quarter this morning and got back to the cars.  I was heading to facilitate a Bible Study class downtown.  Oops.  My friend's keys were in the car.  We called her son from my phone and left a message. 

I had time to take her home before heading downtown.  Her son would bring her back to get the car.  Whew!  What a day already!

My husband had not come to get the calendar.  It turns out he had remembered the numbers he needed.

I arrived to the church in time to set up the chairs in our traditional circle.  I knew there might be one or two ladies out today, but I figured there would be at least 3 or four of us.

In the end, I guess there were "three or four of us": me, Jesus, Holy Spirit, God.

I was able to spend time in prayer for the ladies that normally come to the Bible Study and spend some extra time in 1 John 5, today's focus. 

As I looked at the table with the lit candle, the Bible, and the chairs awaiting people to come, I wondered who would come join this circle of friends.  It wasn't until later when the others weren't able to make it that I realized that the time and space were for my contemplation and reflection today.

It was okay. It was good for me to be there.  I needed some quiet time to focus on them in prayer and to focus in and on the Word.

As I contemplate the concept of "circle of friends", I know that I am blessed by a much larger circle than the candle in these pictures represent.  Honestly, it feels more like one of those older "coke (coca cola)" commercials where folks join hands around the world to sing.

[So, I searched for the coke commercial and didn't find folks joining hands, but I did find this from 1971.  I may have another commercial in my head, but this fits too, with my world travels and mission trips and friends around the world.  Yes, I'm shamelessly plugging "coke".  My favorite cola brand. ☺]

I have been blessed and continue to be blessed by so many friends in this life.  Thank you.  Thank you for touching my life, for being a part of my life, for joining in whatever stage of the journey... Your life has blessed mine. 

I found this song by Point of Grace about "Circle of Friends".  Check out the lyrics and watch and listen to the song.


Words & music by Douglas Mckelvey & Steve Siler

We were made to love and be loved
But the price this world demands will cost you far too much
I spent so many years just trying to fit in
Now I've found a place in this circle of friends
In a circle of friends we have one father
In a circle of friends we share this prayer
That every orphaned soul will know
And all will enter in
To the shelter of this circle of friends
If you weep, I will weep with you
If you sing for joy the rest of us will lift our voices too
But no matter what you feel inside there's no need to pretend
That's the way it is in this circle of friends
In a circle of friends
We have one father
In a circle of friends we share this prayer
That we'll gather together no matter how the highway bends
I will not lose this circle of friends
Among the nations, tribes and tongues we have sisters and brothers
And when we meet in heaven we will recognize each other
With joy so deep and love so sweet
Oh we'll celebrate these friends
And a life that never ends
In a prayer
That will not be long before
All will enter in
To the shelter of this circle of friends
That it will not be long before
All will enter in
To the shelter of this circle of friends

I hope and pray that you too are blessed by a wonderful circle of friends!  It is good to have the time to stop and be reminded of how blessed we are by those friends, even through unexpected circumstances.

Blessings as you continue the journey! 


Sunday, October 27, 2013

What a week! A family reunion, a trip to Arkansas and back!

Last Sunday we went up to Franklin, NC for the 66th Blaine family reunion.

My husband's grandmother was a Blaine (Bertha Matilda Blaine).  She married a Moffitt (John McGee).  They had Grace Earl, who married a Dickerson, Dewey Lee.  Riley was the 7th child of Dewey and Grace.

This was the 2nd Blaine family reunion I've been to (I went in 2009), though Riley has been able to make several more (2009, 2010, 2011).  Since we've been going, the reunion has been held at Louisa Chapel UMC, so we go up early enough to worship prior to the family reunion.

The messages (regular and children's [cotton candy clouds]) were good and I got to sing "The Summons", a song I've not heard since my Academy time.

It was great to catch up with family at the reunion, some we had seen earlier in August (Jan and Jay), and some we hadn't seen in quite a while (Aunt Ruth, Sylvia, Donna, Betty, all the Blaine folks).

Lots of great food and fellowship.  Riley's son Sean was able to make the day trip with us, so that was good for him to visit with family and for us to visit with him.

Monday we took off for Arkansas to visit Riley's brother Bob and wife, Vickie.  We stopped over in Memphis, TN for the night to see some sights and enjoyed walking all around Memphis (checking out Beale Street, the Elvis plaza, the Riverfront, the arena that was hosting WWF wrestling, etc.) that afternoon. 

Tuesday we arrived in Arkansas. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law have built their home on a beautiful piece of property.  They are using solar panels for electricity and rain water collected in water tanks for water.  We stayed in their RV camper while their, bringing back memories from our fall break in Harlowton, Montana several years ago. 

Wednesday we went into Branson, Missouri and toured the old town, heard some Ecuadorian musicians (and I enjoyed speaking Spanish), then headed back to Arkansas after eating in a Mexican restaurant converted from a Wendy's. 

On Thursday we did the Blue Streak Zip at the Branson Zipline and the 100 foot freefall drop at the end.  Very cool!  I will admit that I didn't follow the guide's directions 100% here at the freefall.  We were supposed to hold onto to our strap on the front of us with both hands.  However, when I got to the edge of the platform, my instinct was to touch the railing with my left hand.  That was a "no-no".  Honestly, stepping off that platform was more difficult than running off the mountain tandem with the hang gliding flight instructor.  I compare it to rappelling.  But, it was a great adventure, nonetheless, and I'm glad I did it!

We left to head back on Friday, spending another night in Memphis.  We rode the trolley into town this time and walked around some.   The Peabody Hotel reminded me of the Palmer hotel in Chicago somewhat, where we once stayed.  We were there too late in the evening to see the ducks, but we did hear some great piano music and catch a taste of the atmosphere as we walked through quickly. 

Saturday morning we toured the Sun Studio after eating at the Blue Plate café.  We got home Saturday evening.

To top off the week, we headed to church for worship and enjoyed the early morning service at our home church, Burks UMC.  "A strong tower" was the focus for the worship service.  Proverbs 18:10-11 were the verses.  It was a powerful message and a reminder of where to keep one's focus.  I kept thinking of the Kim Hill song from the 90s "Blessed be the name of the Lord".... and sure enough, I learned that they sang that song in the 2nd service.  But, Riley and I had taken off right after 1st service to head to another church across town.  A friend was preaching today and I wanted to be there to hear her.  So, we went to St. Marks Northshore instead of Sunday School and 2nd service at our church.  When we got there, I learned some friends of ours would be joining Burks UMC at the 2nd service.  Hmm... this was going to be interesting.

We experienced awesome worship and powerful preaching.  Love overcomes evil. 

We left during the last song to try to make it back for our friends joining.  We weren't sure if we could or would.  But, we did.  Just as we were walking in the Narthex, the Associate Pastor was introducing them and asking them to come forward.  She saw us coming in the back, running. ☺  It was good to make it.  The neat thing is, we got to see our neighbors down the street join at St. Marks and then our friends join at Burks. 

It has been a very full week. 

A very blessed week of visiting with family and friends, seeing new sights, revisiting old ones, worshiping our Lord and being encouraged by the fellowship of believers.  Whew!

On another note.  With all this traveling, I've been watching the leaves.

The leaves were changing in Arkansas and Missouri, but not here yet in Tennessee.  We did get to see some color changes last Sunday on our way to the Blaine family reunion in the North Carolina mountains.  I hope we'll see some color here in TN too.  One can hope.... and wait.

I don't know what kind of week you've had.  I hope your week has had some quiet time, some family time, some time with friends, some time to gaze upon the changing colors of leaves.  Wherever you've been, whatever you've experienced, I hope you recognize that you're not alone on this journey.  You are surrounded by people making the journey alongside you.  Need a friend on the journey?  Be a friend to someone else on the journey. 

Blessings as you continue your journey, as you live into whatever awaits you this week.

For me, I'm looking forward to getting back into the routine and rhythm of "normal" life... whatever that means.


P.S.  Though I couldn't find a version of Kim Hill singing "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord/Strong Tower", here is one version.  There are others.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Holding all things lightly... open palms

Yesterday evening I felt one of those nudges to do something that really seemed a little weird to me.  I knew if it seemed weird to me, it was going to really seem weird to the other person.  So, I questioned.  I debated.  It wasn't anything major.  It was an offer up the mountain for this person when she would be going to give her clergy talk for the Emmaus walk.  Why God put it on my heart and mind yesterday evening to offer, I had no idea.  Risking vulnerability once again, I sent a text offering a ride up the mountain.  The reply came-- thanks, all was good, not needed.  That was totally cool with me.  I did what I was supposed to do-- offer.

I have learned over the years to listen, to pay attention to the nudges that come my way.

This morning I read a devotion by Macrina Wiederkehr that gave me words for another way of living that I attempt to live into as well:  "holding all things lightly".  In her devotion, Macrina spoke of not holding onto to things too tightly, but rather holding them lightly.  What a great image.  In the past, I have attempted to express that by open palms where I don't curl in my fingers to grasp at the object, person, or situation, but rather leave whatever it is in the openness so that God can work in and through it as God would.  That is how I have been "holding all things lightly".  Now I have words to go with my imagery.

Macrina writes: "Is it possible to enjoy the gifts life lavishes on me without becoming obsessively attached to them?  My possessions!  My cherished beliefs, opinions, and ideas!  My friends!  My customary way of doing things! [...] Holding things lightly does not require a total surrender, although it does imply that my hands and heart are open if this kind of surrender should prove to be the greater good." [Wiederkehr, Macrina. Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2011), 101.]

On the same page, Macrina writes: "If I hold an object or possession lightly, it can become a pathway to God; if I cling to it tightly; it may become a stumbling block on my pathway to God."

For me, it is an ongoing learning process of holding things lightly.  Whether it is an idea, an object, a person... whatever it is... there are times when it is easier for me and times through which I struggle.  Yet, struggle is a part of growth. 

I obeyed yesterday's nudge and let it go. 

After spending time in Macrina's devotion this morning, I saw I had a text message.  I checked it. 

Would you believe that my clergy friend that is giving a talk today on the mountain had car trouble this morning and needs a ride up the mountain?!?!  We are both a little surprised and stunned from my offer yesterday which seemed so untimely and unnecessary.  Yet, the offer was given out of obedience from having listened.  Who knew that this morning a need would arise?!?!

I am encouraged and blessed to know that listening and obeying the nudges of the Holy Spirit are indeed part of our journey.  In listening and obeying, I am learning to hold all things lightly.

Macrina closed the devotion with these words on listening: "The invitation to deep listening never goes away.  An important aspect of all discernment is to listen again and again--and to listen with others." (102)

May you and I make the space and time to listen along our journey and may we be able to hold all things lightly as we continue the path of spiritual growth.



Friday, October 18, 2013

"Go gently through this day..." Surviving obstacles along the path

Today was my midterm for my ethics class.  It is an intensive class.  We met the first two weekends of September.  We had two papers due a few weeks back on September 27th.  This past week we met either online or in person (depending on our situation) for a midterm review.  I was a little late to the online review on Thursday evening for two reasons: (1) my hang gliding time and (2) I couldn't get into the google+ hangout.  It kept telling me that participants must be an Asbury Seminary student.  Finally my professor heard my cries for help (several emails) and sent me an invitation to which I responded. 

I needed to finish some reading after last week's review prior to studying, so that was my priority.  Then I sat down to write out notes from our power point slides, readings, class notes, etc.  I studied my notes, I filled in my notes.  I read over some of the notes in the books I had underlined.  

I had scheduled today at 1:30pm with my proctor to take the midterm. 

After a morning walk, I came home and spent some time in contemplative prayer prior to studying.  That seemed to center and calm my heart, mind, and soul.

With several cups of tea, I spent more time reviewing and studying until my brain felt like it was going to explode and I felt like I was swimming in ethics.

I was beginning to feel nervous again.  I've mentioned it before.  These types of tests simply don't fit my learning style or testing style.  One reads and learns all one can on a subject and then takes a test over the material, hoping to remember all that one has read and learned.  Though "aging" could be blamed or an excuse (and that is fair), it simply has never been my learning style and I struggle on these types of tests.  Not only is it difficult for me to attempt to take a test out of any vast vacuum of information, I find it intimidating and difficult when faced with questions that differ from what I've read, learned, and studied.  But, hey, that's life. 

To calm my nerves prior to my proctor's arrival, I opened up Jesus Calling by Sarah Young to today's devotion (October 18) and read these words:

"Go gently through this day, keeping your eyes on Me.  I will open up the way before you, as you take steps of trust along your path.   Sometimes the way before you appears to be blocked.  If you focus on the obstacle or search for a way around it, you will probably go off course.  Instead, focus on Me, the Shepherd who is leading you along your life-journey.  Before you know it, the "obstacle" will be behind you and you will hardly know how you passed through it."

Wow!  These words made me smile.  The "obstacle" I was facing was an ethics midterm. 

My proctor arrived.  I gave her a fresh cup of Café Britt, dark roast.  She sat in the sun room on the comfortable couch where she had full view of me in the kitchen on the computer.

I sat down at the computer and prayed, holding the "holding cross" I had been given at the Academy.

Then, I opened up the midterm and began. 

I answered questions.  I stumbled through some.  I figuratively scratched my head over some, pondering their meaning and attempting to remember where that information was in my notes, the class notes, the books, the articles, the power point slides....

Then, it was over. 

I reviewed the test.  To my surprise, I passed! I passed with a "B".  Somehow, the test didn't mark the ones I missed, so I don't know which ones I missed, but for the moment I can live with that.

When I re-read the devotion for the day, what truth there was in the words: "Before you know it, the "obstacle" will be behind you and you will hardly know how you passed through it."

What obstacle(s) are you facing in your life today / this season?  Maybe the words from Sarah Young's devotion will encourage you to find your way of trust along the path and before you know it, the obstacle(s) will be behind you..

The Scripture verses with the devotion: John 10:14-15 [14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.] and Isaiah 26:7 [The path of the righteous is level;
    you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth.]. (NIV)

Blessings on your journey.  It won't be obstacle-free, but we can face each obstacle with trust and confidence in the One who Guides us along the path!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Hang gliding, part III--- more video... stalls and landing

I have a HUGE mid-term coming up on October 18 for which I am still reading.  I also need to study and review.  Additionally, I have a sermon outline for my other class that I began and need to finish.

In the midst of this need to read and study, I am attempting to weave in some moments to edit the video taken from the cameras on my flight so I can (1) see them myself and (2) post them. 

When I think of being up in the sky on Thursday, I grin ear to ear.  It was definitely a highlight experience in my life.  Not just the in-the-sky part, but the entire experience.  I got to meet hang gliders (Robin who moved from Butte, Montana; Rick, Dan-- I primarily talked with Robin and Dan) and hear their stories (a little bit), watch a couple of them fly and even fly up in the air with them. 

As I reflect upon my experience, I continue to find God connection points with my experience and my spiritual journey, any spiritual journey.

The clip here includes both the wing camera angle and the face camera angle.  You will see some flight time, some stalls and descents we did during the flight, and our landing. 



The journey isn't always smooth.  There will be times of stalls and descents.  On our flight we had some light turbulence.  That too is part of the journey.  No matter how high or how long you are able to soar, you will land at some point.  That is part of the flight.

For me, it was a slight let down, though it was a beautifully smooth landing.  It took some time to regain my land legs.  I wasn't used to being on the ground again at first. 

On the journey of life and the spiritual journey, we will have soaring moments spiritually.  Yet, there will be necessarily a time that we will need to land, to put our feet back on the ground.  Being on solid ground again doesn't take away the incredible scenery from the air or the experiences in the air; it just means that it's time to take the experience onward, forward.

Like coming home from an Emmaus weekend or back from an Academy week or any retreat or conference in which you have focused so much on your surroundings, God, and/or the experience of it all... there comes that time to put things back into perspective and incorporate them into the daily life in a way that moves one onward, forward, deeper.

That is where I am now.  What are my next steps?

How do I take this life-changing flight experience and incorporate it into my daily living?

How do I take any life-changing experience and incorporate it into my daily living?

Part of what I do is to share what I've learned and experienced with others so that it remains fresh in my mind and so others might find something in it to connect with along their journey.

On my journey, I continue to remain in awe of the Creator's handiwork.  The more I am in it--whether hiking, walking, tubing, floating, kayaking, on two wheels, soaring, or whatever it may be-- the more I grow closer to my Creator because the Creator has created a wonderful and beautiful place for us to live, to care for, to enjoy, to reflect upon the Creator's nature and being.

I cannot help but go to the Psalms in which there are many passages about nature, creation, singing praises to God when I start reflecting on God as Creator. 

Wherever you are on your journey, may you take some time/make some time to enjoy the Creator's handiwork. 

Blessings on your journey,


Friday, October 11, 2013

Hang gliding, part II.... video clips... this is what it was like for me to fly!

My tandem instructor, Clark Harlow, came by the house Friday (today) with the video, 3 cds, from yesterday's flight. 

I thought I would post a few clips. (Maybe later I'll post a few more... of the stalls, going up and around in thermals, going down at around 40 miles per hour, and landing. But, for now... I am posting just two clips of the take off and first few minutes of flying.)

Before I do, there is another Scripture verse that I found that relates to my hang gliding experience. 

Psalm 55:6

From the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV):

6 And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;

From the Message:

“Who will give me wings,” I ask—
    “wings like a dove?”
Get me out of here on dove wings;
    I want some peace and quiet.


Those words adequately describe what flying/soaring through the air meant to me.  Yes, it was an incredible and wonderful adventure.  But, it also filled me with such peace!  To settle into the harness and relax underneath the wings was a gift. 

I don't know if you can experience what I did from the clips, but maybe you'll get a sense of my adventure.... from the joyful zeal to the incredible awe to the perfect peace.

Take off and first few minutes of flight from the wing camera (2:48)--

Take off and first minute and a half from face camera (1:23)--


Blessings on your journey!


Thrill A Minute Hang Gliding Website

Flying... a dream come true-- hang gliding, part I

I don't know when I first wanted to fly.  I have flown in airplanes since I was about maybe 8 years old.  I flew as an unaccompanied minor from Atlanta to Savannah at around that age to visit my two year older aunt and Papa and Erlene in Claxton, GA.  I have been in many airplanes throughout my life.  There are pilots in my family and flight attendants.  So, maybe, this flying thing is part of my blood.

I have flown in my dreams.  I can't tell you when I started flying in my dreams nor how often I fly, but I have and I still do some.  It's awesome. 

As for the hang gliding "bug".... when did I catch it?  I'm not really sure of that either.

I do know that I've always enjoyed watching them fly.  I've been up to Lookout Mountain to watch them fly before and I've been over to Dunlap to do the same.  I have sat for hours watching folks take off and soar, until the sun went down.  I have even been on a hang gliding simulator at Disney World, "Soarin'".  That was a GREAT ride.  We went to Disney World for Spring Break, March 2006.  It was Charlotte's and Riley's first time.  If you'd like to experience the Soarin' ride, check out the video below.

I had wanted to hang glide on one of my earlier birthdays.   But it just didn't happen.  I thought it was the 35th, but that would have been in 1997 and prior to my divorce.  I'm not sure I was thinking about it then.  After the divorce, I watched hang gliders fly for hours with a friend as therapy, so maybe I thought about it the next year or for my 40th.  For my 45th birthday, I threw a taekwondo party.

So, I decided that it would be a great thing for my 50th birthday.  However, in the recent months, I started wondering why should I wait a full year for something I really and truly wanted to do now.  So, I determined that my hang gliding / flying dream would come true for my 49th birthday.

I called Thrill A Minute Hang Gliding and connected with Clark and we set a date and time, October 10, 3pm.  I chose his location because I wanted to run off the mountain, not be towed up into the sky.  I'm sure being towed is pretty cool too, but I really wanted to experience the full deal. 

I have no regrets.

It was a gorgeous day with some promising winds.  I drove up a little early to relax and was able to take some pictures from the bluff and enjoy the breeze, chat with some hang gliders, and watch one guy (Robin, formerly of Montana) take off the ramp. 

Ground school training took place while Clark put together the hang glider. 

My friend and former teaching colleague from UTC, Hilary Browder, was able to come up to be my photographer.  She and Lilly, an adorable puppy, joined us during set up time. 

I was most nervous about two things-- running and jumping off that ramp.

Running-- because of all days, my right knee decided to give me problems.  I had ACL replacement surgery in 2000 and have had some problems off and on.  Why yesterday needed to be a problem day, I don't know.  It felt like the plica was catching again inside and sticking some.  But not all the time.  Since we needed to run to get speed, that might be a problem.  I told Clark about it and he said he wasn't worried.  He would drag me if he needed to.  He was serious.  He said once we were strapped in and on that ramp and moving..... well, it was too late to back out.  I wasn't wanting to back out, but it was good to know that if my knee gave, I could still fly.

Jumping off that ramp-- I have rappelled.  I have rappelled Australian-style (head first facing down the rock).  I have done Project Adventure things in the trees on the ropes courses.  But, this would be a little bit different.  I would still be hooked in.  But my feet would be leaving the ground.  So, I was a little nervous.

Yet, in spite of my nervousness, I was more excited.  I felt like a little kid on some kind of wild and exciting adventure.  Honestly, I couldn't stop smiling.  I smiled most of the time.  That is, except when my stomach finally started getting queasy after flying about 40 minutes.

Flight check-in.... take off... in the air...

Thermal lifts.... turbulence... butterflies... hawks.... a moth that flew between our heads... two other hang gliders in the air with us... one Cessna plane... getting to see the smoke stacks from above..... the trees.... the fields... the Sequatchie Valley... the birds below.... being in the air... floating / flying / soaring / cutting through the wind... stalls... going slow... going 40 miles per hour... being up about 1000 feet and maybe slightly higher... being up for 50 minutes... learning about the incredible sport from such an experienced person.... experiencing piloting personally (though I was extremely timid, cautious, and not very good)... blue skies... clouds...  silence when you stalled... landing...

It took a few moments to find my land legs again when we landed.  Walking after having been prone for that long was odd.  It was also odd to be on the ground again.  In a way, it was a let down.  After the freedom of being in the air and soaring, there is something different about being on solid ground again.

For me, this wasn't "just" a flight.  It was an opportunity to be in a part of my Creator's world in a way that I normally am not.  Creation is one of my strongest connection points with my Creator.  And, to experience flying with the birds, moths, and butterflies.... to feel the powerful thermal lifts.... to feel the air around me... to see for miles and miles... wow!

There is always a rhythm.  An ebb and flow.  For me, yesterday I was able to experience what it felt like to fly.  I was able to live my dreams of flying.  Then, I was on solid ground again. 

If I didn't have to get back home for an online midterm review (that I was going to be running late for as it was), I would have stayed a little longer and watched the others fly some and watch the sunset from those beautiful rocks and bluff. 

It was a gorgeous setting.  Refreshment for my soul in so many ways.

What a wonderful blessing!

As I mentioned, I have flown before.... many airplane flights.  I have even been up in a Helio Courier, thanks to a fellow camp counselor friend and her dad in Nashville in the 80s.  That was an awesome experience!  Fly-bys, landing and taking off..... I got green on that.... had to use one of those sandwich bags, but oh what an awesome adventure! 

And, then there was the helicopter ride once in Costa Rica when we were in La Suiza on a mission trip.  A pilot came by our work site one afternoon and those of us who wanted rides could take them.  Of course I took that opportunity!  That was awesome to see Costa Rica from a helicopter. 

But, there is something different about not being confined in the air by a plane around your body, by being simply in the air and moving through it. 

Suffice it to say.... I loved it!  If I had the "bug" prior to yesterday, you might say that I'm full blown infected now. 

But, no worries.  I'm not running out to buy my own glider and taking lessons.  Not yet.  I'm waiting on my two wheels to get fixed so I get some wind beneath my wings on my motorcycle.  That's the air I'll be getting until I go tandem one day again.

One last thing....

Because this flight strengthened and refreshed me spiritually and otherwise, I believe these verses from Isaiah to be fitting for my experience: 

Isaiah 40: 28-31

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.

Blessings on your journey!


ramp at Tennessee Tree Toppers, pic by dd

getting ready to go, pic by Hilary Browder

landed, pic by Hilary Browder
Clark Harlow, tandem instructor and dd

flying, pic by Hilary Browder

hello!, pic by Hilary Browder

getting the harness on, pic by Hilary Browder

up in the air, in the clouds (kinda), pic by Hilary Browder

coming in for a landing, pic by Hilary Browder

running off the ramp, pic by Hilary Browder

put your left foot in, pic by Hilary Browder
notice the shirt! (Ticos, ¡Pura vida!)

P.S.  Here were my first thoughts / report of my flight that I posted on Facebook:

"Let me just say that was THE MOST AWESOME FLIGHT I have ever had in my life. No offense to Delta, United, Eastern or any of the others I've ever taken, but my flight today was SUPER AWESOME!! In ...the air about 50 minutes. Had some shoulder problems, but did okay. LOTS of thermal. Got to 1000 feet and a little above. Flew with butterflies, hawks, AND a moth flew in between us. I was a little hesitant in being the main pilot. The VIEW was spectacular. Took me a few minutes to find my land legs upon landing. I finally got to make my dreams a reality (I fly in my dreams). I will post pics and video later. Oh, for all who know me well.... a HUGE surprise... No curse words slipped out.... ☺"