Every day in our life's journey holds its own special treasures, if we have eyes to see...

Friday, July 4, 2014

Oh Freedom!

Oh, freedom! Nations fight for you. The brave die for you. Little ones live in you, running, laughing, sleeping in peace.

Oh, freedom! Much more costly than gold, not bought with something as easy and as base as money. Oh no. You come at a price, and those who love you must never forget that they live free because people have bought that right at the ultimate price. To all the defenders of our freedom and for champions of justice in the earth, wherever you may be--

Thank you!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Time to Sow

It's Father's Day, and we're planting trees. 

Redwood trees.

I'll admit it--compared to their 300 ft. anscestors on the coast, it boggles me to think that these six foot saplings will ever someday tower so tall they will scratch the sky. Yet barring unforseen problems, the only thing that can prevent them from doing so is if we never actually plant them.

Elementary, isn't it--that we must sow in order to reap? But how often we look at the barreness of a hillside, the lack of fertile soil, the circumstances that seem contrary, and give up without ever actually planting something. This happens in the realm of people's hearts as well--our own and others'. Maybe we look at the level of emotional disconnection and we think "what's the use of even trying to fix this relationship?", or at the discrepancy of what we long for compared to what we actually experience, be it in relationships, dreams, or destinies.

In the midst of the process it's easy to overlook the simple truth that we must sow today what we want to harvest in the coming years. Love. Kindness. Wisdom. Vision, effort, grace. And sometimes it appears as if these seeds are dying in the ground, for all we see happening on the surface.

But we sow in hope. Ecclesiates 11 says, "He that observes the wind shall not sow; and he that regards the clouds shall not reap..." I, for one, have often questioned the value of casting seed into the face of the wind, or looked at the storm and wanted to draw back. And yet--if that's what we do when the ground seems unfriendly, the weather unrelenting, then indeed, we will never reap.

Because the flat-out truth is-- We only have the harvest we plant. No sow, no grow.

Of course there's watering. Tending. Weeding. Watching and praying, even. But no one incubates empty ground in hopes that the seed that was never sown will somehow miraculously spring up out of the dirt and bear fruit.

It's Father's Day today (as if every other day in the year is not!?), and that's just a good time to count precious the many ways we can sow into our kids, grandkids, greatgrandkids, honorary kids--into people, related or not--for of all the places we plant seeds, seedlings, or saplings, only people are eternal.

When our great-great-great-great grandkids dandle their great-great-great-grandkids on their knees (or give them rides on their shoulders, as the case may be), these redwoods we've planted will tower hundreds of feet into the air, and that will be amazing. But it is the people, in the end, which carry the richest results, eternal rewards, the harvest of our labors, and they carry them infinitely forward.


I'm thinking that is enough incentive to sow in all seasons, in all places, in all soils. Or as the writer says in Ecclesiastes: "In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhhold it, for you don't know which shall prosper; this [seed] or that, or whether they both shall yield good increase."


Happy Father's Day and happy sowing!

Monday, May 26, 2014

To All the Unsung Heroes

Though I posted this last Veteran's Day, I decided to put it up again. Some stories cannot be told too often. I want to dedicate this piece to all our soldiers past and present, and as I do, I also want to say a special thanks to Charles, to Brandon, and to Joe for giving your strength to preserve our freedom. You know who you are :-)

Someone very important died not long ago, but only a few people noticed. Where were the headlines for Ace Gibson? Surrounded by family and staff at the veterans’ home, he quietly exited this earth. Why did no reporter show up to cover this, his last great act of gallantry? Though we live in a world of million-dollar sports contracts and block-buster movie earnings, surely the passing of an old soldier is still important.
I know he wasn’t famous—not in the way other men have obtained fame. He was not a film star. Not a NASCAR racer, rolling out of control on a dangerous curve. He wasn’t even a politician or a small town businessman. Yet surely this must be one of  life’s more glaring ironies: Often those that live and die for themselves receive much public acclaim, while those that live and die for others, die in obscurity, unseen and unsung.

That’s how it was for Ace, anyway. What he accomplished on the battlefields of Europe was infinitely more important than any celebrity “job” which ultimately benefits only the celebrity himself. But to be fair, barely a handful of Ace’s buddies are even alive to remember the days when they were all young together, and others knew him to be just a regular guy who looked like any other old man, and they never knew his past. He was a quiet man who lived a quiet life. He stayed married to one woman for 60 years, raised a family and worked with the railroad in Kansas City for thirty years. He never talked about war experiences. Oh, he’d share the funny things—frying “borrowed” eggs in his combat helmet—things like that.
“Did you ever kill anyone, Dad?” his daughter asked one day.
His eyes looked far past her, and finally he answered. “Yes.”
But that was all he ever said. So maybe it is not anyone’s fault that no fanfare was blown and the nation’s flags never moved to half-mast when Ace passed on. There he lay, where the frailness of age and the ravages of Parkinson’s disease had brought him quietly to the end.
 It wasn’t until his funeral that things began to surface. “Did you know that the battalion he was in landed on Utah Beach at Normandy just days after DDay?” someone said. “He fought in the Battle of the Ardennes and was on hand for VE Day.”
“He received five bronze stars for gallantry in action,” shared another.
His wife doesn’t know where the medals are, but she found an old map, yellowed now with the years. It shows the path his battery, part of the Super Sixth Armored Division, took on those sad, weary days so long ago. A dotted line shows where his young feet walked, the battles he fought, the victories won. But it doesn’t begin to tell what his eyes saw, what his hands had to do, and what he was willing to give for our freedom.

More than sixty years have passed. Other wars have come and gone. And other men like Ace—some older, some younger—still hide their stories behind quiet eyes. And this is what I wonder: How do I say “thank you” to them before they, too, pass away unsung? Is there a way I can let these soldiers know that someone somewhere appreciates what they did on the behalf of women, children and a nation still free?
They don’t want to talk about it. But I do. I’d like to speak to each and every one—the pilots, the sailors, the infantrymen, and somehow convey to them that the hardships they endured, the atrocities they witnessed and committed to purchase freedom—were not in vain. I want to show them my children, laughing and carefree, and say thank you. Thank you for doing what you did, so I and my children could grow up in a safe and free country, where we can meet without fear and speak without apprehension.
 
I also want to say, “Thank you for risking your youthful dreams to purchase mine.”
I’m sure they’d brush it off, saying, as one has already said to me, “The real heroes are underground.”
But here’s what I cannot comprehend, as I look at soldiers—some in nursing homes now, some still strong in the power of their youth, and just returning from Iraq or Afganistan—why should men and women die for people and children they don’t even know? And yet I know the answer, even as I ask: Because within each is heroism, is gallantry, is the willingness to fight for the things that are precious, even to the giving of life. Truly, “…greater love hath no man than this, than that he lay down his life for his friends.”
So what I’d really like to say to Ace and to each and every soldier, sailor, flyer and marine, alive and dead is this: “May He who sees all things, bring to remembrance and hold in honor your quiet heroism. God bless you, Ace—you and those like you. And on behalf of all Americans—a deep and heartfelt thank you.”

 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Wild Flowers

I've been noticing wild flowers lately. California poppies. Wild lupine. Roses. They're blooming in gardens, in the woods, and by the side of the road: so brightly orange, so deeply purple; pristine, perfect. Wherever they grow, they are content. It is sufficient that they bloom and they bless us as we pass by. They don't have to be showcased to be beautiful. Even if no one sees them, they are enough. They are perfect.

Just like each of us. We don't have to be showcased in order to bloom, to be beautiful, to be enough. We don't have to be noticed by anybody in order to be sufficient or lovely. We are not just "okay." We are perfect, and like flowers, we can bloom in contentment, completely without the notice of the rest of humanity, because we are good and beautiful in God's eyes.

Its not about where we bloom or how we bloom at all. It's the fact that we do bloom--sometimes in spite of where we're planted. For us, like for the  flowers, it's not about needing to be seen. It's about us being who we were made to be--the colors, fragrances, and infinite variations, being content and being fully who we are--okay with being different from the next person. Okay to be unseen if we happen to bloom somewhere off the beaten path.

And if we seem to be growing far from where others might notice us, we need to know that ultimately, we are not unseen. We are celebrated; we are known; we are loved by our Creator, and He knows exactly what little corner of the earth we inhabit.

It is also beautiful to me how content flowers are to bless the earth. Whether we transplant them into places where a lot of people see, or leave them in the jungles or the mountain pastures where they spring up, bloom, and then fade unseen by human eye, wherever they find themselves, they do not change their behavior or their focus. They're humble. They're content. And they are fully given to blooming.

In fact, flowers don't care where they bloom, because ultimately they're focused on seed, on generations to come, on spreading and filling the earth with beauty.
I want to be that way--happy to bloom where I'm planted without a need to be noticed, singled out, or exclamed over. I am enough. I am beautiful. I am perfect. And so are you :-)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

What Season is This Anyway?

Winter Skies
Folks in Western Montana where I just visited, they have no idea what season it is. 50 degrees one day. Two inches of snow the next morning. Maples, Willows, and daffodils all swelling into emminent bloom. One day the natives hunker down for below-zero blasts, and the next, try to decide whether to open their windows for a bit of fresh air in the hot sunshine. Here may just be the orignation of the phrase, "If you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes."

Boots Today
I have lived in several states, and all the residents use this adage as if it only fits their region, (which I find humorous but also rather endearing). And more than anything, it illustrates the oft-bemoaned fact that weather is just not willing to be put in a box, turned off on a certain date, called forth at our convenience. This, of course, comes as no surprise to anyone. We just want to get into authentic springtime  A: With enough precipitation to make it through the growing season and prevent fires, and B: Without having to keep both winter and summer wardrobes stuffed in our closets.

Flip-flops Tomorrow
But on a more philosophical scale,  it has me pondering again this whole thing about seasons.  In particular, how, though summer, autumn, winter, spring do eventually arrive, while they are coming and going, and sometimes in between, they seem like other seasons. Hang with me here, because my point is that just like seasons in the natural, seasons in our life are not cut and dried with nice straight lines to help us know when we've crossed into the next one. We don't even have a calendar that announces the equinoxes. We just have one day at a time, and as those days roll by, our seasons change. We are born. We grow, enter school, navigate through teenagerhood  and into adulthood.
Circa 2006


These things are perhaps the closest we come to lines of demarcation in our lives. And yet--within each season, who knows what the "weather" will be from one day to the next. Take parenting, for example. I'm still in that season, parenting our last couple of teens remaining at home, and sometimes I find I'm longing for a more familiar time; one that had the long, golden mellowness of summer--smaller issues like bumped heads, broken toys, and tangled hair. Things a mom can take care of with one hand behind her back. (Mostly)

But  parenting looks so different as these last couple of eaglets fast-track to the brink of adulthood. They're headed right into the sunshine, flying toward their next season. But just when I think I can store the winter gear, the wind kicks up. What tool do I pull out for this one? What wisdom do I apply here? (Boots or flip-flops?) And why--this is perhaps my greatest peeve--WHY did the electronic world bring us those time-wasting, brain-jelling hand-held devices to complicate this last stage of parenthood, because you just know that every other teen in the universe is allowed to use them 24/7 with no limits and you are the only--I repeat--the only mean parent on the planet. Urg.

Iris after the Rain
Should I publish that mini-rant? Hmmm. I suppose I will because, after all, I'm waiting 15 minutes for the weather to change, the issues to morph, the brilliancy of who they are to outshine the logistics of the moment. And that's my point, whether it's parenting, relationships, work, age--Perhaps it's not so important to be able to pin down exactly where we are in our process of life as to know that no matter what it looks like at the moment, the season always arrives.

Maybe it doesn't stay long, but it does, eventually, arrive. :-)



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Gold of Adversity


So far, March has been rainy. That is wonderful news, because prior to the last few weeks, Northern California was in the worst drought since the 1970's. But like pretty  much every bad situation, that drought was not without at least one benefit--parched creeks exposed places that have not been dry in a long time. Why is this good? It uncovered what had been hidden: Gold.

Yes, gold. Once again, they're finding gold in California. Maybe not enough for the known world to begin migrating west, as it did 150+ years ago. But enough to ignite fresh enthusiasm for gold hunters. It's also started me thinking: that gold has been there all along, hidden out of sight. All it needed was some large-scale adversity to expose it. Difficulty. Drought. Lack.


Interesting. How many areas in our own lives have hidden pockets of gold--wealth of character, stamina, wisdom, kindness--that we have not known of until adversity comes? And furthermore--it is not the rich areas which are revealing their hidden treasures. It's the weak ones. Picked over. Ones we've written off as hopeless or helpless.

Which has me thinking--what if I looked at the areas in my life that are not so amazing, be they circumstances, relationships, character "flaws"--looked at them not as areas of lack, but with the understanding that somewhere beneath their everyday appearance of emptiness or drought, I might find gold.

Or peacocks.

Peacocks? Yes, random. But sort of related. Because one day this week I went to ride my horse. No gold or unexpected riches there--just horses and hay and everyday. Until I walked around a corner and saw a sight so rare and so exotic as to call to mind king's palaces and the wealth of by-gone days.And so--whether we find gold or peacocks or some other unexpected beauty--I'm wondering what we each would discover if we went looking for those riches in our weaker places...




Thursday, February 6, 2014

Different Shades of Change


In case nobody else has noticed, I'll risk stating the obvious: change is not all that easy. Starting is not too bad--exciting even, at times. But that grueling backstretch where the sparkle has faded, where we often lose touch with the "why" behind the change, and we're more conscious roughness of the road ahead than the distance we've come? That part is not fun.

New, fun thing of the day? Haircut.
In my previous blog entry, I introduced my New Year's quest to do one fun new thing each day. Well, I'd love to report 100% achievement in that realm, but reality puts my score at a hopeful 30%. I'm tempted to look at the 70% of the days that I have not even remembered to think about doing something new. But I've decided that one of the new and fun things I'm going to take on is to look at what I have accomplished so far rather than what still lies before me. Because really, if I look at it that way, I've made a great start--one month in, and I've gone from hardly ever intentionally planning something both new and fun, to doing it 30% of the time. That's like improving by 1% per day! Theoretically, if I keep going like this, by December I will be operating at 120%!

Sometimes an inch takes a long time to travel.
But even as I type that, I realize I need to change. Change the way I look at changing. Change is not measured by all or nothing, black and white. Change has many different shades. So--what if instead of focusing on the distance we still need to go, we all looked at how far we've come in the areas we still need to change? It would not surprise me that if we  drop the role of chief slavedriver and critic and begin to cheer ourselves on, we would begin to realize just how versatile and amazing we actually are, not all the ways we fall short. And in doing so, vision and courage would fuel us to run our race with even more determination.

Focusing on our failures leads to discouragement and robs the days of joy and our hearts of hope. But to look at
Cool water.
ourselves and recognize how valiant and how enduring we are being in the backstretch--even if that only looks like standing still instead of laying down and giving up--that gives us strength to run another day. We'd do that for someone else. In fact, we'd be rushing to their side with cool water, holding their hand, running with them toward the finish line while shouting encouraging words like "You can do it!" "You're doing great!" and "You're almost there!"

Toots has her own style of running her marathon. Prone.
Let's do that for ourselves, shall we? Let's cheer for the 5%, the 10%, the 20% of change we have accomplished so far. Let's acknowledge how some of that change has been won by great effort, though to onlookers it might appear we are but inching along. Let's recognise how far we've come and how brave we've been along the way. Pour kindness upon these hearts of ours that are trying so hard to live life and love people well, even though we fall short. You and me--we're everyday heroes in our own private marathons. We applaud each other. Let's find at least one thing we've done right every day, and start applauding ourselves!