Sunday, December 22, 2013

What Star Are You Following?

They started out long before they had any idea of where they were going or what they would find. They were astrologers, most likely -- scientists of the day who studied the stars and in this particular stellar alignment, they saw something new being foretold that had to do with a royal birth in the constellation specific to the House of Judah.  

So they set out to attend the birth of this new king, supposing (erroneously) that any royal birth would surely take place in the Judean palace of royalty…that of King Herod. It was not to be and their visit only provoked Herod’s own paranoia and anxiety. 

The Magi didn’t give up and return home, however. They had come much too far to give up now. They trusted that something was happening. Now they just had to figure out what that was because it clearly was something outside their normal expectations.

What they finally found, however, was God “on the loose” in a manger --- an animal food trough. Born just like any other baby to a young woman and the older man who accompanied her. God made manifest…plainly visible and achingly vulnerable.

Who knows what went through their minds as they arrived at this most unlikely venue for royalty. Perhaps they were more adept than most of us at recognizing the ways in which God will choose to be at work in the world through sometimes very strange and unexpected circumstances.

Perhaps in this season of Epiphany, we might consider the lessons these ancient astrologers offer us: faithful and persistent searching for the “Aha!” moments where God is at work. Trusting that God is showing up even if it is outside of our expectations. Bearing the gift of ourselves to the most unlikely places where we find the most unexpected need.

How many times, do we pass by God at work in our world just because it doesn’t look like we expect it to look? Doesn’t sound like we expect God to sound? Doesn’t behave the way we expect a Deity to behave. Of course, it is not a big stretch to realize that it is our own ideas of God that shape what we see, hear and expect. 
What if we, like these Magi of so long ago, were to suspend our own limited expectations and look, instead, for the unimaginable mystery, astonishing wonder and unpredicted surprise? What would we find?

So, as we enter this new year, can you try on a new way of being in the world yourself? What star are you following with all its mystery and unknowns? Where is it leading you and can you open your heart to trust that spiritual mystery is sometimes swaddled in unfamiliar and unaccustomed wrappings?

God leaves no fingerprints nor provides any map. But his star leads us always as he waits for us to find him since he is always looking for us.

1. Stars. by Phantom-Seraph
2. Star of Wonder Star of Night by betsyillustration
3. The nativity scene Oil Painting  by rainwalker007
4. Epiphany by ex-astris1701
5. Sentinels of the Stars by FramedByNature

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Power of a Dime

 I have a dime sitting here on my desk right in front of me. 

It was given to me by my (almost) five year old granddaughter, Ava, with a solemnly sworn oath:

Ava: “Nonnie – here is a dime for you. I have one too. See.  Now whenever you see that dime, you think of me and whenever I see my dime, I’ll think of you. Okay? Put it in your pocket so you don’t lose it and I will put mine in my pocket.”

Me: “That is a wonderful idea.  I will put it in a special place and whenever I look at it, I will think of you and how much I love you.”

Ava:  “Yes. And whenever I look at my dime, I will think of you.”

I was so touched. Where did she come up with that wonderful way of remembering a loved one when far apart?

What an astonishingly delightful gift to the world a five year old can be. Young children see the world with such wonder and view so much as That is my favorite thing!” It is a gentle invitation to step outside of myself and let a bit of wonder and awe crawl into my own dimmer and tired spaces.

Interesting that this little unexpected encounter of love comes at such an intriguing time when my family is trying to make sense of the death of one of our own – my older sister, Joyce, who passed from this life to the next from acute leukemia on June 10. Life with Joyce has always been a bit of a challenge for all of us in one form or another and I have been pondering how I want to remember her.

I have been considering making a list of her blessings – for she did have them – they were just hard to appreciate consistently due to “other stuff” that always seemed to get in the way. 

But perhaps my little granddaughter has given me an idea. Whenever I see something that has a connection to Joyce – a calico pillow she made – an afghan that I use every day – a picture – a story – my longed-for relationship with her own children (my niece and two nephews and their own families)...whenever I encounter something like that, perhaps I can consider it Joyce’s “dime” and remember the blessings that were there somewhere but always a bit of a mystery to find and trust.

So, thank you, Ava, for thinking to pledge a relationship with me with this cherished wealth: my dime and yours. Who knew twenty cents could foster such riches. I will not forget.

By the way, dear Reader – as Ava & her family were leaving in their car, I was telling her Mom – my daughter, Jody, about this little encounter. Ava piped up from the backseat: “Don’t lose it, Nonnie.  I need it back so I can give it to my Daddy.”  

I asked her if she would like to take it back with her right then and give it to her Daddy. She replied: “No! WHEN I COME BAAAACCCKKK I’ll get it from you and give it to my Daddy. When I come back! 

So – that’s good news that she clearly wants to come back and can think that far ahead to know I will honor her trust and not forget. And if she actually does remember to collect the dime back, I will replace it with another of my own. Some icons are too important to be forgotten or misplaced.

In the meantime, I have a little dime on my desk that is the treasure of my heart and shines a light about investments in the future from which we can all learn.

 Photo credits:
1. I have money... by ~Mephiles99
2. money tree   by ~xXceinwenXx
3. Money  by ~LAStillLife
4. Money.  by ~heartpolkadotts

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Guest Blogger: The Greatest Baseball Game

Publisher's note: I happily invited my Mom, Vera Allcroft, as a guest blogger in order to publish this story she has just written.  Mom lives in Florida with my Dad and she is still exhibiting her strange condition of never growing up, now 87 going on 10.  

Welcome, Mom!  Keep pitching!

July 1, 2012

At the sound of the bat hitting the ball, we all screamed, “Run, Kate, run!” and my  granddaughter took off, running as fast as her six year old legs would allow.   The ball flew past the pitcher into the bright green grass, then bounced up to the outfielder’s glove.  He would have thrown the ball to first base for the first out of the game, but our teams were short on manpower and there was no first baseman, so Kate was safe.

A short while before, Kate and I had been sitting in the sunny family room of her home.  A gentle breeze stirred the curtains at the window and we could hear the katydids buzzing in the grass.  I was teaching her the beginnings of embroidery and as she carefully placed her cross stitches, I worked on my own counted cross stitch.  It was a summer afternoon in the quiet state of Vermont and our sewing lesson was a peaceful place.

Suddenly, the screen door banged and her brother, Gavin, and his friend, Larry, came in with an urgent request.   “Grandma, will you and Kate come out and play a game of baseball with Larry and me?”  Now an opportunity like that doesn’t come along very often so Kate and I quickly dropped our needles and thread and trooped after Larry and Gavin to the side yard where we quickly decided to have two teams – the girls against the boys - a six year old, two eight year olds and a 60 year old going on 10. 

It was decided on the basis of courtesy to the senior member of the teams, that the girls should be up first.  Gavin became the pitcher of the opposing team and Larry became the outfielder.  Kate was up first, and when she swung at the first pitch and missed, the ball sailed past us, hit the road and went dancing down the street.  The ball curved to the downward side of the hill on which they lived so it was quite a run for the four of us. The hills in Vermont are long and we only caught up to the ball when it got stuck in a ditch.

At that point, we decided we needed a catcher – it was between the non-hitting member of the “Up” team or the outfielder of the other team.   The vote was unanimous that the non-hitting member of the up team should be the catcher because the outfielder was really needed to keep the ball from running into the shed at the back of the property.   So as Kate stepped up home base again, there I was, in my new position as catcher.  Again the ball was thrown, and again Kate struck and missed.  I felt the ball nick my glove as it sailed past  and bounced down the hill again.  Since it was my job as catcher to return the ball, all the other players watched as I strolled casually down the hill to the ditch where the ball had stopped the first time.  As I plodded back up the hill that grew steeper with each step, I had a feeling there was something out of whack with this game.

It was on the next try that Kate at the bat connected with the ball and off she went to first base. After lots of cheering, I realized I was no longer the catcher – I had been promoted to hitter, and this set off another round of negotiations on who was going to be the catcher.  I announced loudly that I wasn’t going to chase the ball down the hill again, so it was decided that Larry, the outfielder, could change positions temporarily because we could see the shed wasn’t really in too much danger of being hit by the ball.  

Luckily, I hit the ball on the first throw and off I ran, heading for first base.  Kate took off for second base and all would have been well except that as I reached the base I slipped in the dewy grass and actually slid into the base in sort of a laying down position.  This shocked all the players and they forgot about the game as they rushed over to see if I was hurt.  I assured them I was okay although in the privacy of my own mind I was beginning to realize this was a nutty thing for a 60 year old going on 10 to be doing. 

To get back to the game, we took stock of where we were  - I was on first, Kate was on second, we had no outs, BUT, and this was a big BUT, we had no more hitters to be up at bat.  At  this point in time, we decided to abandon the game and go in the house to have a glass of Koolaid along with a couple of cookies.  After discussing our performances, we came to the conclusion that if you are going to play a game of baseball it is better to play with more than two people on a team.

I learned important lessons from that game – the first and most important, never pass up an opportunity to have fun.  Second, playing baseball with your grandchildren is like catching the gold ring on the merry-go-round.  I was leaving for my home in Florida the next day so this time had been very special to me.  The sweetest part of my memory of that day is when my daughter told me she overhead Larry say to Gavin, “When is your grandmother coming back?”  

It’s great to be wanted, no matter what age you are.   

Baseball by ~G-man2000

Baseball  by *DallasHarder

baseball by ~JErickson

Baseball by ~kijo13

Baseball by ~muratsuyur

Saturday, March 24, 2012

"Remember, O Mortal..."

I recently read about someone who writes blogposts as a spiritual discipline. I like that idea and while I can hope that I might adopt it as a personal spiritual exercise, I am realistic enough to realize that I won’t be self-disciplined enough to sit down at the same time every day to be all inspiring....much less expect my faithful followers to be interested in reading it.  There is only so much inspiration a body can tolerate in any given week!

No --- I think perhaps my spiritual discipline in blogging will need to be found in the fits and starts of creative musing as I pray my way through the vagaries and quirks of life, sometimes being blessed to tune in to a higher frequency that shows up in unexpected  ways. When I try to “create” something,  I frequently become my own obstacle, but ... when the words flow unbidden in my head and heart....Ahhh... then there is something usually worth listening to.

Here is something I wrote last October just as I was learning that my life was about to go down a path that was not of my choosing. While this isn’t a sermon, it was written with the sweet inspiration of something that was clearly speaking to me...and I willingly provided the pen and paper.

“Just So…Remember”
October 1,2011
Excerpt from Psalm 19 
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of God's hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.  They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.  Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world."   (NIV)


Just so, Mortal – doesn’t the Lord God blush the sky pink in the rising of the day – sending forth rays of yawning light like spears of hope calling you to remember how He always finds you? Calling you to remember how you always find Him?

And doesn’t the Lord God shower the earth with abundance and beckon the sun to share its warmth so plants might grow and animals find their food and all this for the whole day long? The world is always busy with God’s revelation. 

And doesn’t the Lord God capture Glory in the setting of the sun --- slathering the waiting world with generous abandonment  of coral-pink and florescent orange that mellows with the teasing of teal and the tranquil arrival of  sapphire…a carnival of color celebrating the day’s life that has just been lived?

  And doesn’t the darkening sky become a mantle of indigo serenity –gentling the strident dissonance of the day and guiding the cradlesong of crickets to shush all to sleep – to rest – to be renewed while the stars keep their silent watch reflecting in silent splendor the wonders of God for any and all to witness?

Think upon this then, O Mortal – the psalm you raise is an ancient one for the grandeur of God reveals itself daily through hurricane and blizzard – through drought and dust-storms – and even through dryness of spirit and weariness of soul.

Entrust your worn out and fear-filled heart, then,  to this endeavor: remember how the whisper of God is in you as well as all around you. The whisper of God is always near – always near --- you have only to look. You have only to listen. You have only to remember.

Friday, January 6, 2012

"...and She pondered..."

Well, we have reached that time of year when the Baby Jesus has been announced, conceived, gestated, birthed and according to our liturgical calendar --- has miraculously gotten all grown up, baptized in the River Jordan and is on his way exploring his ministry and getting into trouble for it. 

The shepherds have come and gone with their declarations of 

 The angels have departed to once again ramble around the world looking for more miracles to publicize...

...and the Magi (also known by the moniker of “Wise Men”) are taking the scenic way home so they can avoid being inconveniently murdered by King Herod ---such a wild and crazy guy!   

All in all a very busy season with lots going on because of that very human infant in that little rustic stable! But as I reflect on the image of the Holy Family glowing around the manger bed, there is one person of particular interest this year (besides the Baby God, that is) -- Mary, the Mother of Jesus. 
She has a way of being that speaks to me this year in that she “...pondered these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:19).  

There are a few other passages in Luke that suggest Mary had an introspective nature so I like to get creative in imagining Mary’s pondering --- taking it all in; wondering what it means; keeping her thoughts to herself until they are ready to find voice; trying to figure out the bigger picture in which she finds herself unexpectedly plopped.

If you stop and think about it, it makes sense to pause and wonder what kind of Divine Story is unfolding in a human life...maybe even your life. Sometimes, when you find yourself in the middle of God’s Story, the best you can do is to hang on for the ride while contemplating the befuddling way in which the Divine shows up ---messing with a blueprint you might have thought was carefully charted. 

Perhaps there is – or should be – a little Mary in all of us: A surrender to the mystery. A conviction that one day the invisible-yet-perceptible will make some kind of sense. The intense encounter of pondering the impenetrable and provoking the impossible around which astonishment and wonder is wrapped.

And therein lies the ”take away” – at least for me. I might not always understand how God works in my life but sometimes just taking the time to merely sit with it and let it be is enough for the moment.          
God will have to take care of the rest. 

Photo credits:
1.       “Shepherds of the Stars” by DeathDancerSid
2.       “Angels” by Star-Lit-Beauty
3.       “Nativity Scene”  by MizzTree
4.       “Mary Did You Know – OSWOA” by *mooresart
5.       “Ave Maria” by KartK
6.       “This Little Light of Mine” by BrittneyR

Monday, July 25, 2011

The God of Peripheral Vision

Have you ever heard the phrase: “God doesn’t close one door, but He opens another”?

I have to be honest, here – I try to avoid using those words in any sentence that comes out of my mouth. It seems to suggest that God is a great puppeteer who goes around steering my robotic form here and there – shoving me through a threshold or pushing me back out over the doorjamb --- opening and closing doors that always seem to have a slamming sound at the end --- all the while expecting me to sit passively by and merely wonder: “Is the answer through Door Number One or Door Number Three????”  “Doesn’t matter”, says the Cosmic Angelic Co-host: “God Knows Best”.

Well, I do think there is something to be said for God knowing what is best for us overall and I would also add a personal disclaimer that sometimes God has been present in amazingly personal ways. But closing and opening doors just doesn’t speak convincingly to me about my interactions with my Creator and the freedom I have been given to make choices in the life I live.

Perhaps it is not so much that God closes one door and opens a new one, but that I am looking in the wrong place.

I find it amusing to think of myself staring at a blank wall just waiting for “The Door” to mysteriously appear that God will magically open; when, actually, I am really waiting for a door to open that will look like – feel like – taste like – smell like – and sound like the door I wanted in the first place.

What if the door that God opens is the one on my peripheral vision – that area of sight that is not  front and center?

Perhaps the God-Shaped Door is the one that I might see if I were to stop staring straight ahead.

Maybe it is not so much that God closes one door and opens another but rather that God has a door open and is waiting for me to notice.

Photo credits:
#1 "Doors" by MrKilzo
#2  "The Doors" by tavarin d3awrdt
#3  "Opening Doors" by Penelope T
#4  "Old Doors 7" by bakenekogirl
#5 "Vintage III" by oriontrail

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Here I am...take me."

  Winters in Vermont take some getting used to. It took me about four years before I got over expecting crocus and daffodils in March and accepted the fact that the brief and beautiful summer closes down shortly after trees begin their seasonal dance of color sometimes as early as August.  Winter was the hardest, however, because it took a keen eye to see the subtle shifts in nature during this most daring and dramatic of seasons. But the stark space of Winter allows you to see things that are disguised during the cover-up season of Springsummerfall.

This year, the very tippy-top twigs of naked trees captured my attention as they stood out against the sky seemingly flinging themselves heavenward singing: “Here I am --- take me” --- offering with full confidence that their destiny was to become One with the Universe.  Perhaps these newbie twiglets from last year’s birthing do not realize that they stand on the backs of the branches before them who once upon a time also reached to the sky vibrating: “Here I am --- take me.” 

Such is the cycle of life. New growth reaches out boldly with energy, hopefulness and innocence not fully realizing that it is only their connection to the whole that gives them their being. The essence of their slim twigginess only exists because it is affixed to another “branchlet” and that small stem --- not much older in terms of seasons --- finds itself secured to a branch --- and that branch to a limb and then to a bough and then to a trunk whose roots forage deeply and silently with outstretched foundation to anchor the whole, feed the many and water the sky.

The mighty trunk that was once a tiny twig itself crying “Here I am --- take me” has become what it was meant to be.  Could it have guessed at its destiny when first it took shape and form?

So, little twiglet…so bravely and naively clambering to the sky – what lesson do you have for us? Do the cries of: “Here I am, God --- use me” really fall on deaf ears?  Does that which you see as a precious gift seem to be not particularly treasured in God’s sight? Can it be, tiny beacon of longing, that there is another aspect of your calling that beckons and bids you pay attention? Something that does not fall within your comfort zone so readily? Something more in tune with your “being” rather than your “doing”.

Perhaps that which is yearning to make itself known to you in fresh ways will be your connection to that which roots you --- leading you through the next season of your growth and sustaining you to  become that for which you were created.

Photo credits:
"Trees in Snow" by ~pnewbery 2008-2011
"Trees Trees Trees" by f_l_A_r_k
"Winter Trees" by Rabid Turtle
"Winter Essence" by oriontrail
"Winter's Mist" by Ratafluke