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Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Harry Edenfield, a Christian author, offers a thought-provoking daily devotional for this season of Lent.

Today’s verse is from Genesis 19:16: “But Lot lingered. So the angels seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.”

Edenfield reflects, “Lord God, your servant Lot lingered in Sodom. Sometimes I love my chosen place too much. You urge me to leave my sin spot.

I linger.

I linger even if it may be injurious to my loved ones. Remember me: I, too, need an escort from the magnet of sin.

As we leave together, Holy Spirit, urge me to have no regret about the exit from sin. Urge me not to look back.”

Amen.

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Braving Hurricane Barry, I put in my 9 hours’ morning work yesterday and took off at 3pm to go see Jonathan and Southwind’s last performance in the state before they left at 11pm for the rest of their national tour.

The neighborhood was in the middle of flooding but I took advantage of sneaking out between storm bands (no pun intended) to get on the interstate..

It was at least a 3 hour drive upstate, pounding rain and – thank You God – for a friend recommending audio books, so it was me and Brené Brown and her recent book on “Braving the Wilderness” (how à propos!), white-knuckling it up to Millbrook, AL. I had a mission, to see my kid, his band, the competition with other bands, to make good on a promise to get there and to deliver two corn dogs and a large hot fudge milk shake into the hands of said kid.

He reinforced a couple of times (despite my texts to move things up) that it would have to be AFTER the show (which would be circa 10pm) lest he barf up Sonic on the pristine football field and cost his team points.

Because they had the “home state advantage,” Southwind went last. But preceding them were several truly awesome drum corps, competing for a title.

One was Southern Knights, an all-age drum corps (and I saw young as 10, old as 70s) which rocked the stadium kicking off the competition.

In the middle were bands from Atlanta, the Carolinas, Florida, Louisiana and Michigan.

I would like to point out that I was most impressed with the Louisiana Stars from Lafayette, LA – which happened to be from just a hair north of Barry’s landfall, so these kids were safe and sound inland but probably internally freaking out how their families, pets and homes were faring during the storm which made landfall while they practiced here.

Louisiana Stars – God bless those in the path of Hurricane Barry.

The band from Kalamazoo, MI won, Legends, with their extraordinary drill team posing as Sirens of the Sea en masse, along with a dramatic story line about life in the sea with the gods and goddesses.

The Sirens did a creative wave number to the sound of my beloved sea waves, their long hair sweeping to and fro, emulating the waves of the beckoning sea

This drill team evidently was taught to seduce and interact with the audience with their hair-flips, alluring smiles and seductive beckonings. a perfect opening that wowed and wooed the judges.

With Southwind hosting, their last-on-program/late performance was stellar, nonetheless – and, compared to last week’s dress rehearsal (see previous post), the musicians were phenomenally precise, more artistic, theatrical and in the groove. I am excited for the rest of their tour and am confident they will rock the rest of the country!

Southwind’s precision

They handled the “cages” more expertly tonight…intentional in trapping their prey and skillfully orchestrating the profound exhilaration of freedom

Packing up for the next destination

Drilling the Drill Team – they rocked!!

That semi holds a place for each instrument, supply and uniform

The cages waiting to be loaded. What cage are you captive in?

Each member gets a medallion at the end of their home-state show, depending on how many years they’ve participated. This is Jonathan’s second year.

A competition well-performed

Southwind Mom’s Truck

Thank You, God, for children and their pursuits, for infusing them with talents, skills and interests that contribute to our world’s arts, sciences and teaching them all manner of What Life’s About.

God, please bless Southwind and all the kids this summer who are devoting themselves to greater purposes which ultimately make us better people and make the world a better place. May they go on to serve You in whatever capacity You deem appropriate.

(Here, Jonathan’s brother with Down syndrome pipes up, “Mama, you tired of Southwind?” Mama answers, “No, David, I’m tired FROM Southwind last night, not tired OF Southwind!”) David says, “We’re tired from rains and storms,” to which mama says, “Yes, David, and why we’re going to bed early tonight….”

Night night co-musers!

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Sometimes we ask, “How does this end?”

But does it really ever end? Or are endings really new beginnings?

Here are some of my favorite “endings” that actually opened the most amazing doors to new beginnings:

The first evening of my mother’s “running away” from dementia, that helped her feel both at home and free from home, all at once.
Soiled toes after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. We thought our beaches would never be the same, but God was gracious to restore in due time, as He always does.
What sea stars do when they free themselves from their captors out of children’s beach pails and escape back to the sea, alive and free again!
The end of a rum runner schooner from 2 centuries ago…nobody has the $ to rescue it, so it just keeps eroding on a remote beach, a treasure to the few who frequent the far reaches of the peninsula, a legend to those from afar…

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The end of a virtual fantasy and the beginning of an indestructible, eternal bff-ship.
The end of life as we knew it pre-Katrina…once the grief passed, the rebuilding was mostly emotional, projected onto the current landscape should you visit NOL.
The end of David’s life, 6 weeks in a coma and no hope…but the doctors had us sign papers to authorize unorthodox treatments and I stood glued to the wall praying as they applied said treatments in the form of laughing gas and yelling at him to hang in there and stay with us….and he did, and turned 19 last month.
Hurricane Ivan’s destruction, 2004, year before Katrina – rocking my baby in my lap singing hymns as our ears popped when the winds hit 130 and we could no longer hear trees falling around us, but had to trust totally in the Lord..our kids remember that night and our faith and serve God with gratitude to this day.
The ending of a century-old era, my Cubbies losing. Oh, ye of little faith! God delivers if You sit tight and see what He has in store!
Elizabeth died some days after this 93rd birthday…but her death was the beginning of a new legacy of strength, courage and untold creativity….Just open your heart to what lies ahead.
Death of hips – yeah, finished the marathon in David’s honor, but was sidelined early in life with titanium and polyurethane shortly thereafter….pace thyself!

The end of anonymity – red flag hair day unexpectedly revealed last Sunday. God reigns in all things!

Thank You, God, for endings, which usher in brand new opportunities and beginnings. You are the Omega and the Alpha, and everything in between. You’ve got this! May we all embrace endings as we would beginnings….both bring new life and growth.

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Fire dances, mesmerizes and consumes. It can quickly go from subtle, romantic and soothing, like my evening candle of ambience, to raging maniacal destruction, as I witnessed earlier this year in the aftermath of the horrors of the deathly California wild fires.

Somehow this fire display on my trip to Costa Rica last month, felt safe and calming, when surrounded by water.

Set fire to the sky, the sea and the spirit…

The Fire Dancer seduced the audience with her sultry moves, her body ever-changing with the beat of her soul

Thank You, God, for setting fires which refine and redefine, through death and rebirth. Thank You for new beginnings and for hope on the other side of destruction. Help us to always know that new growth only comes through the tests of fire.

Happy Easter, y’all!

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Depth is critical. Without it, life is two-dimensional and only has length and height.

3D, however, is by far richer because it adds depth. And depth adds dimension, perspective and soothes the mind, heart and soul because it helps bring things to life, and life into focus.

Similarly, in photography, depth of field allows us to discern distance between what is in focus while keeping an eye on what lies beyond.

Note that neither concept embraces looking back.

Ironically, last week before this post came out, I had captured a shot down by the bay that I’d sent to my blogging buddy, Mr. 3D, for his feedback, since he has a really good eye for photography, creativity and all things beachy keen.

My mother’s favorite flower was the camellia, a flower she paid handsomely for to enjoy in her native Chicago, but which grows abundantly here where she chose to live out her last years with me. So I always think of her in the winter when the camellias bloom so beautifully like this.

Some of you may be aware that I laid my mother to rest, summer before last.

Or so I thought!

In an odd and truly unusual religious turnaround, the priest sought me privately after church last week and made a very unexpected confession. “Er, I believe we found what appears to be more of your mother’s ashes, back in the sacristy. What would you like us to do?”

You see, the priest had been hit by a drunk driver the week before mother died (fortunately he was alright after a few weeks of recovery), so the interim priest did the funeral and interred her ashes in the church memorial garden.

I know mother was buried because I and my family was there in vivo to participate in the solemn event. We wept. We joined hands. We sang hymns and prayed. The children scooped grandmother into the earth. Rites were performed.

We said goodbye. Forever.

There was apparently some miscommunication about a second box that turned up long after what the rest of us thought was the actual second box, had been dispersed to the places her ashes were scattered over water. Somehow, the funeral home had created three boxes and delivered them to the church and with the main priest out of commission, nobody knew about Box 3.

Until this week. They’ve been doing a head-to-toe cleaning of the church as they prepare for the regional Diocesan Convention to descend upon our church later this week.

Mother was a photographer and she also had a great sense of humor, so I’m sure she was LHAO from all points beyond, when we learned she had actually been haunting the church for the past 18 months.

So when the priest asked me what I wanted him to do, for a split second, mother’s funny story about what to do with her ashes (pre-death) danced across my mind.

At some point in her 80s (she died at 93), some funeral home solicitor kept calling her every week trying to get her to buy a funeral plan. They were, as pesky solicitors are, relentless.

So one day mother, anticipating their call, decided to rig up a sure-fire way to get them to stop calling. Sure enough, the phone rang that day and she answered with a wry smirk on her face and when they asked yet again she’d decided yet to buy a plan with them, she said without skipping a beat,

“Yes, I’ve finally decided what plan I want. I want to be cremated and for my ashes to be divided into four. Each one of my children will get a portion of my ashes to keep in the trunks of their cars. That way, should they ever get stuck in the snow somewhere, I can still be of help to my children.”

The hapless funeral solicitor never called back. And I decided against suggesting this to the priest, although I might save the story for him for a lighter time in the future.

So yesterday, mother was officially laid to rest with the rest of her ashes, in the church garden where we thought we’d been going to visit (all of) her all along.

The garden happened to have many different-colored camellia bushes behind the memorial section, so I picked one for mother this morning and located her plot, which was newly disturbed with broken grass and unearthed dirt.

Rest finally in peace, Elizabeth Anne – and may you take some awesome photos in Heaven!

Thank You, God, for the gifts You have given me through my mother – love never ending, a happy spirit, an abundance of laughter, a zeal for learning, an eye for Your creation, a passion for seeking You…and for 3D and depth of all fields.

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Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday !

Scenes from my beach world this week-

Unexpected gifts continually wash up on our shores…

Baby Jesus hasn’t quite arrived yet in this scene, the fourth Sunday of Advent

Silent night ahead

Children playing outside in the courtyard, as seen through the church’s “eyes to the world”

A play on the term “Christmas Tag!”

Thank You, God, for gifts that don’t come in boxes…

…and for gifts that do. Merry Christmas, y’all!

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Tonight our church observed a new tradition, holding a service of the Longest Night, marking the coming of the literal longest night of the season which immediately precedes the coming of the nativity of our Lord.

I’d never heard of it before, but during some of the moments of silence in the service, I reflected how it mirrors other challenging times that precede other celebrations, such as the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter.

I suppose I’ve had some years of merriment, a seven year Mardi Gras of sorts, leading up to this Longest Night. But through the darkness and in quiet solitude, God is faithful to fill our horizons with bright crimson Sonrise.

This morning’s walk was breathtaking…

Psalm 46 was read tonight, one of my favorites: “Be still, then, and know that I am God…”

I decided to try out the service for 3 reasons: that I lost my mother last year and continue to grieve the deaths of both parents, that I work 70 hours a week helping the mentally ill, the suicidal and others who grieve, have lost, are hurting or are lonely…and that I myself have a fresh loss that has been a long time coming but just yesterday confirmed that it is a forever loss.

And yet, by God’s mercy, all 3 are gains.

Yesterday’s loss was punctuated by the sting of being told that only merry emotions and memories were welcome during this season, that my needs for afore-promised comfort, attachment and reassurance were interfering with the celebration of a dear one’s Christmas…

”So why would I want to be available to your mood swings during these precious days celebrating the birth of Christ, detracting from it?” the email sharply read, banishing me into the land of coal and switches, for even daring to darken the doorstep of one picture-perfect American Christmas. A fantasy blog to which I was apparently, blatantly and abruptly blocked. Unfriended. Unfollowed. Deleted.

My arms got tired holding up the happy mask 24/7. I flunked Christmas Perfection 101. Failed to leave the party while it was still rocking.

My Longest Night had begun, and the service could not have come at a better time.

The intercessor began with, “In the spirit of the season, let us now ask God for what we need for ourselves as we participate in the Season of Christmas as people coping with loss, pain, suffering, loneliness, grief and sadness.

“God, we come to you as Christmas dawns with pain growing inside us. As the nights have been growing longer, so has the darkness wrapped itself around our hearts. In this season of our longest nights, we offer to you the pain in our hearts, the traumas that some of us cannot put into words. Loving God, hear our prayer.

“Compassionate God, there are those among us who are grieving over what might have been. A death or loss has changed our experience of Christmas. Once it was a special day for us, too, but someone has died or moved away or abandoned us. Or we have lost a job, or a cause.

“We find ourselves adrift and alone, lost. Lord, help us find our way.

“The Christmas season reminds us of all that used to be and cannot be anymore. The memories of what was, the fears of what may be can overwhelm us. all around us we hear the sounds of celebration, but all we experience is a sense of melancholy Please be near us this season.

“Compassionate God: You loved the world so much that you sent us Jesus to bear our infirmities and afflictions Through acts of healing, he revealed you as the true source of health and salvation. For the sake of your Christ who suffered and died for us, conquered death, and now reigns with you in glory, hear the cry of your people. Have mercy on us, make us whole, and bring us at last into the fullness of your eternal life.

“Each of us comes bearing our own hurts, sorrows, and broken places. We want to invite each of you to offer your wounds to the God who loves each of us deeply and wants to carry our pain. God waits, patiently, gently calling out: ‘Give me your pain, come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, I will refresh you!'”

We were invited to either stay put and observe silence, come to the altar to receive a blessing or go to the back and light a candle.

I appreciated the options since I could have easily benefited from all 3. But I couldn’t go to the altar because I would have wept openly (what was I thinking, not packing Kleenex in my purse for this?!), and I didn’t want to passively stay put in silence.

So I made my way to the back and lit a candle and said a prayer for my parents and their parents before them, all godly people who fucked up and righted themselves at some point and somehow made their way back to God.

And, after looking around to see if it would be greedy to light a second candle, grabbed another one and quickly lit it, mourning the loss of my bff and noticing the brightness of that candle, there in the darkness, committing it to God and thanking Him for the salvation of a marriage and a family.

I quietly returned to my pew, kneeled in reverence, was washed over with peace and gratitude for God’s mercy.

Thank You, God, for Long Nights, for they signify that daybreak is near.

Thanks God, for Things that matter most. Sometimes the Long Nights are the Things that matter most.

And letting go (of things that matter most) IS letting God.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever.

Amen.

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Evidently the children were busy doing other things besides bike riding this summer…

…and their parents were evidently too busy to tend to the garden and weeding!

Thanks, God, for new opportunities this summer, for the children being able to explore other places and things, and for Your protection and oversight as they do. Thank You for an enriched life, that we may serve You through and in all the paths You guide us.

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It is always good to know one’s Place in the World…I am so grateful for mine, and for you joining me here at the sea!

Thanks, God, for respite and sea solace, for giving us a piece of Heaven here on earth in our respective places in the world You’ve provided.

Forgive uS for having strayed from our designated places when we have, and thank You for shepherding us back to where we belong. Your mercy and patience with us is great, and greatly to be praised.

Thank You for the different ways You nurture us with comfort and peace…and for the places that we can be still and know that You are God.

Thanks for giving us a place in the world.

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May the Son shine upon Your face…both rising and setting…

Hey, God…Thank You for the setting that we may behold yet another Rising. Thanks for Your promise that those things that disappear and set in the sky, will again appear, rise and shine! That even if the worst case scenario comes true, that we can still count on You to rise again and make full and complete, that which once seemed empty and hopeless.

Thank You, God, for believing first in uS, that we might always believe in You.

Thank You for riches in simplicity.

Lord…Let us all be like this sunrise above, illuminating all that we see, shimmering light on darkness, and dancing reflections of Hope in You and Your eternal light.

Happy Easter, dear Readers!

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