Monday, August 31, 2015

Two Hundred Eleven

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
Colossians 3:13 (NIV)

Two hundred eleven.

It seems kind of random, doesn't it? Really, there's nothing special about the number two hundred eleven. Except this. Two hundred twelve. At two hundred twelve degrees, water will boil. At two hundred eleven, it will not. That's less than a half of a percent difference in temperature, on paper; our nerve cells probably couldn't tell the difference. After all, hot is hot. But boiling point is special.

The boiling point of a substance is unique to that substance; it's like a name. Once reached, the substance doesn't increase temperature, even if more heat is added. But the coolest thing?  It's the difference between remaining a liquid and becoming a gas. Change in state. Change in form. From a liquid state that retains its volume but not necessarily its shape - to a gas state with no volume or shape limits.

Two hundred eleven.

One degree short.

How often does that happen to us? How often do we try and try, work and work, and come up one degree short?

If we knew -- that with less than a half of a percent increase in effort, in motivation, in attitude, in whatever it is that's stopping us from achieving that thing we want to achieve - a name, a label, a job, a leveling out, a confidence, a state of no restrictions or barriers -- wouldn't we push ourselves just that tiny bit more? Less than half of one percent.

I've been looking for a parallel term in scripture. What does it mean to go that extra bit? To make the extra effort? I decided to try the phrase: make every effort in a search. Sixteen passages came up. Cross-referencing those passages into the Greek (and in the last case, Hebrew), gave me these words - synonyms for what it means to push through that last degree.
  • be diligent: 1. be constant in effort to accomplish something; be attentive and persistent in doing anything, 2. do or pursue with persevering attention; painstaking
  • earnestness: 1. serious in intention, purpose, or effort; sincerely zealous, 2. showing depth and sincerity of feeling, 3. seriously important; demanding or receiving serious attention
  • strive: 1. to exert oneself vigorously; try hard, 2. to make strenuous efforts toward any goal, 3. to contend in opposition, battle, or any conflict; compete, 4. to struggle vigorously, as in opposition or resistance, 5. to rival; vie
  • pursue: 1. to follow in order to overtake, capture, kill, etc.; chase, 2. to follow close upon; go with; attend, 3. to strive to gain; seek to attain or accomplish (an end, object, purpose, etc), 4. to proceed in accordance with (a method, plan, etc), 5. to carry on or continue (a course of action, a train of thought, an inquiry, studies, etc), 6. to continue to annoy, afflict, or trouble, 7. to practice (an occupation, pastime, etc.)
  • labor (verb form): 1. to perform labor; exert one's powers of body or mind; work; toil, 2. to strive, as toward a goal; work hard (often followed by for), 3. to act, behave, or function at a disadvantage (usually followed by under), 4. to be in the actual process of giving birth, 5. to roll or pitch heavily, as a ship
So, I realize, that as insignificant as that one extra degree seems to be, when looking at the numbers, or the percentage, it may not be easy to achieve. Constant effort, persistence, painstaking attention to detail, serious intent, vigorous exertion, strenuous effort, depth and sincerity, planning a course of action, exert body and the mind... These aren't easy, slide-by concepts. This is meaty, down-and-dirty, sweaty-it-may-take-some-first-aid to recover kind of stuff.

Is it worth it? That one degree. The difference between liquid and gas - between limits and limitless? 

Is it worth it?
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-11 (NIV) 

  • We can live a Godly life through Jesus
  • We benefit from his great and precious promises - to participate in the divine nature and escape the world's corruption
  • We develop in faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, love
  • Our lives become effective and productive in the knowledge of Jesus
  • We live in gratitude, remembering grace, cleansed from past sin
  • We have the opportunity to share the message of Jesus, the Good News
  • We serve and glorify God

Is it worth it? Yes.
The effort? The work? The labor? The planning? The hardship? The endurance? For one degree?


Friday, August 28, 2015

We Don't Have to Be Alone

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
John 13:34-35 (NIV)

We don't have to be alone.

I'll say it again, we don't have to be alone. Not in the deepest parts of ourselves. Not in our tears, our anger, our sadness. Definitely not in our happiness or our joy.

We don't have to see children playing alone, eating alone, watching and following others with wistful eyes and hands hanging like empty husks.

We don't have to be alone in our burdens, our work, our worries.

We don't have to be alone in our aging -- as ears and eyes grow old and tired, when hearing and seeing, and just plain getting around becomes difficult or impossible. We don't have to be alone.

We don't have to be alone in our intellect. Greater gifts bring greater responsibility, not to isolate in communities of ivory tower idealism and peer-reviewed publications. Not to entitle, but to get real in conversation and problem-solving, to bless in compassion and kindness.

We don't have to be alone in our differences, but can build fellowship in our similarities.

We don't have to be alone.

Linking with FiveMinuteFriday

Thursday, August 27, 2015

I Run 4

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 
Hebrews 13:1-2
I have been considering this post now for several weeks. I just couldn't put together the words that I thought would do my feelings any justice... I still can't.
So, I'm guilty. I admit that Facebook, social media, and morning news programs probably take up way too much of my time. I'm guilty of clicking on videos and shared posts about the positive and the inspiring. I'm guilty of watching news programs that are typically heavier on social news and viewer interest stories, than on actual hard news. I am perfectly capable of reading the headlines scrolling along the bottom of the screen but I'd rather listen to friendly and encouraging. I'm guilty of thinking there should be balance between tragic and inspirational stories, between mean-ness and bullying and kindness, and between crime and integrity. It's one of the reasons for the title of this blog - Finding Joy in an Ordinary World... I'm guilty of thinking we should look for joy, choose joy, recognize that we might actually be surrounded by joy.
I've been a member of this group for about a year and have been matched with an awesome little 4th grader buddy for about 6 months. This post really doesn't have as much to do with him as it does so many others in the group. See, for a year now, I've been reading over all the great accomplishments by runners and buddies and seeing great runner/buddy relationships develop (including my own). But, I have also seen the posts that always make that lump in my throat and blur my vision a little bit. They're the posts that mention when someone's buddy is suffering or, God forbid, lost their fight. 
Case in point: I Run 4 Michael

This is a non-profit organization founded by a man named Tim Boyle, in 2013. According to the website,, Tim took up running after quitting a 2-pack/day habit. While searching for running motivation (he clocked 15-20 miles per week), he came across and posted this quote to his facebook page: 

I run because I can and when I get tired I remember those who can’t run 
and I run harder for them.

A friend of his happened to read his quote. This particular friend was a 50-year old man with Down syndrome, and bilateral hip displasia. He answered Tim's facebook message:

You can run for me anytime!
With 16 years in the military and 9 years in law enforcement, I used to consider myself a strong person. After the birth of my daughter in 2013, I finally realized how accurate Gary Allen was when he sang, "When tough little boys grow up to be dads, they turn into big babies again". Now, when I see so many children in pain or suffering, I just can not fathom the immeasurable amounts of strength that is demanded of their parents. Every time I see that another buddy has earned their wings (and I hate seeing it), I just don't know how I could even attempt to face another day after the loss of my child. I don't know what I would do if my child was suffering and I was powerless to help her. 
 It's about fostering relationship. It's about motivation. It's about encouragement, and support, and celebrating diversity. It's about health - physical and emotional. Runners/athletes are matched with buddies of all ages, and all disabilities. When they train, they post to their buddy via a closed facebook page. They post pictures; they share special moments and celebrations. Sometimes they send race paraphernalia to their buddy. Buddies and buddy-parents write back - encouraging and supporting, sharing their own milestones and celebrations.
So, this one goes out to all of the parents of buddies. With all of these children suffering in their own ways, I am in admiration and awe of the strength and love that you exude on the good days and, moreover, the bad days. You all amaze and inspire me 
In the short two years since its inception, I Run 4, Inc has over 32,000 members. Over 10,500 'buddy' matches have been made across all 50 states and in 29 different countries. They desperately need more 'buddies' to sign up. Why? Because there is a waiting list of athletes, a waiting list of over 3000 who want to run for someone who can't, who want to develop a relationship with a family, who want to share their joy. Some athletes wait over six months to be matched.
This weekend, I'll run the Spartan Super in Virginia; a course that really beat me down last year. But, I apologize to my buddy, John, because this weekend, I run for his mommy, Tuesday Shannon.                       Quotes from David Paul - 8/18/2015
There were over 200 replies and comments to Mr. Paul after he posted his thoughts on the Facebook page, IRun4Michael. Comments from parents and caregivers who sometimes feel isolated and alone due to circumstances around their child's disability. I understand. Been there. And the kindness and compassion of a stranger brought me to tears. After asking his permission to print his words, I just thought I'd share.

Sierra signed up and was matched with a runner about a month ago. Just one more instance of a world of hope.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Gentle Lessons of Amazing Grace

Cousin Larry and nephew Tristan - jamming at my parents' 50th wedding anniversary
Summer 2006

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.


What a concept.

Confession time. I can stand on one foot and tell you that purpose drives my choices and decisions. I weigh options and consider consequences. My actions are purposeful. Intentional.

Then, I could hop right on over to the other foot and tell you how indecisive I am. This is the side of me that frustrates my favorite Army guy the most. You know, in the Army, it's all about execution and protocol and standard operating procedures. Decisions are written into the regulations. If A happens, do B. If C happens, do D and E. But there are times, in my world, where there are just too many permutations of a situation. I can't seem to settle on an A or a B.

So I hop. From foot to foot. From purpose to indecision.

Something happened at church yesterday, and it made me rethink one of my decisions. A parenting decision. Something I thought that I'd thought through. (Get that... it's the indecisive foot itching for a stand...)

My extended family is in the midst of sadness surrounding the Stage 5 cancer diagnosis of one of my cousins. I haven't seen this cousin for close to 10 years, but the news hit me like a freight train (I know, tired simile, but that's how it felt). In the 30 plus years since I've moved away from home, through several college adventures and two marriages, through those many, many moves I wrote about a couple of weeks ago (Fourteen Things...), I've missed my cousins and my family. I've missed weddings, and graduations. I've missed cousins' kids, and grandkids. I've missed funerals. I've missed family reunions and old-fashioned get togethers. I've missed card-playing and story-telling, and down-home farm eating. I've missed a lot.

So when I heard that Larry's family is coming to see him - coming from all over the country - to see him, to celebrate him, to pray for him and to strengthen him, to surround him - I decided I needed to go, too. And in the circumstances of now - I actually CAN go.

Which means Sierra and I are going on a road trip. It's a 600 mile-or-so drive. My favorite Army guy suggested, in his straightforward Army way, that perhaps this wouldn't be a good trip for my empathy-savant, daughter with the extra chromosome. Although she is 24, we still don't fully understand how she thinks. How she feels. But we know how she loves. Everyone. It might be too difficult for her, emotionally. He worries about her drama.

I told him it would be fine. This family that we're going to see, they're incredibly blessed musically. I am hoping we will sing, and play, and fellowship, and surround my cousin with joy. I told him I would prepare Sierra. I would emphasize the get-together and glide over the illness. I told him she would be fine.

I should have known that she would worry about the cancer.  She asks how he's doing every morning. She asks if she can pray for him. She tells me she will hold his hand.

Of course!

So after church yesterday, while the congregation was mingling. I caught Sierra in the arms of the Garrison Chaplain's wife. She was crying. I know my face posed more of a question than my words. Dee asked me if she had heard my daughter correctly - her cousin had cancer??

"Yes." I answered. "Larry is actually Sierra's second cousin, but yes." I tried to apologize for Sierra's drama, for the crying and the needy-hug thing, but Dee would have none of it. In fact, in her kind and gentle way, she kind of, sort of, scolded me.

"This young woman feels deeper than most of us are able. She needs to be allowed to feel."

Oh Janet! Rethink. Rethink. Rethink.

The smile probably froze on my face at my realization of the truth she spoke. And I felt tears gather. How in the world had I missed, in my purposeful thinking about the situation, in my concern about Sierra manipulating the people around her, how had I missed that my daughter needed to feel, to mourn, to lament.  Even though she doesn't really know this second cousin of hers, she knows family. She knows me. She knows loss.

The next words from this wise, kindhearted woman as she released my daughter and watched the leader of our praise team pray with her, were:

"And God works through your daughter. She has chosen to be comforted, to share her sorrow, with the two women in this congregation who understand best, two who just lost their Fathers this past week."

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for gentle lessons of amazing grace.
Guide me through this maze of emotion, and then
Help me to guide my daughter through her maze, 
Help me to allow her time and space to grieve
To question
To mourn
And God, help our family to show Larry our love, 
To demonstrate joy
By the holy name of your son

Linking with Kelly at RaRaLinkup, Jen at Unite, and Jennifer at TellHisStory

Friday, August 14, 2015

Learn Through Me

It is Five-Minute Friday. A one-word prompt and five minutes to write. Today's prompt is

Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man; I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
Job 38:2-3

"What did you learn?"

"The sun rises and the sun sets. Between the days, lie the nights, silky and soft, distant stars punctuate the heavens, each rising and setting, rising and setting."

"Any fool know this. What did you learn?"

"Mountains ascend and they fall. Ocean waves travel without wind, soaring in mighty crests and collapsing upon land. Currents glide through the deep, slide through the deep, carve tunnels of change through the deep, stirring the great waters of the world.

An imperceptible shake, an impatient blink. "Not these. These are known. What did you learn?"

"Green things grow, they twine, they stretch, they establish roots into the earth and thus anchored, they reach for the light. Seas swarm with life of all shapes and sizes. Life that swims, that floats, that crawls across the ocean floor. Beasts of the land roam wide plains, cross turbulent rivers, bathe in calm pools and sleep in leafy bowers. Segmented creatures scurry and squirm, spin webs of great beauty, and flutter on jeweled wings. Birds, large and small, fly and soar through the skies, cloaked in satin feathers and warm down. Fur and skin, claw and tooth, antennae, feelers, mandibles, eyes and ears. The earth is filled with such as these."

" What did you learn of my children?"


"Wars and poverty continue. I have seen pockets of kindness, acts of unselfish love. I feel mankind's jealousy, anger, bitterness. I hear your children's prayers. Their pleading. I hear groaning both in pleasure and pain. They eat and they sleep. Some more and some less. What do you want me to tell you?"


"There is nothing new under the sun."

"Then you must look beyond the sun. 

Do not be afraid. 
I am the First and the Last.
I am the Living One; 
I was dead, and now look, 
I am alive for ever and ever! 
And I hold the keys of death and Hades. 

Learn through me."

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ferguson Jones Asks Why

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. 
“Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, 
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart 
and with all your soul 
and with all your strength 
and with all your mind’; 
and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, 
“And who is my neighbor?”
Luke 10:25-29 (NIV)

The town never slept entirely; a window-screen rattled within its frame. Radio music, slightly static, meandered between the ballpark fence and the Shop-And-Go. Headlights leaked across narrow country lanes, faintly illuminating sentinel rows of corn, sky high and rustling in the darkness of a crescent moon. The light, like a finger pointed in curiosity, nudged a still body, lying awkwardly in the grass by the side of the road leading onto Main Street. It was Ferguson Jones; he was barely conscious.

Ferguson knew he was in trouble, but he couldn't wrap his throbbing head around the how and why. Gingerly allowing his hands to creep from hips to shoulders, to knees, to ankles, he checked the tender spots, the aching places. He felt like he'd been thrown from a truck; everything hurt.

A sliver of red sun thrust up from the hills to the east, rolling back the night like a slow motion film. Ferguson couldn't stand; something was broken; a bone down there, that wouldn't bear his weight.

It would be daylight soon. Someone would help. He lay back down and tried to ignore the pain.

By the time the sun had traveled a thumb's width above the trees, Ferguson had counted five cars. Five cars had passed him by, black and white cruisers coming to check in, gliding like sharks, eyes focused forward toward the day, lethally close and full of power. They never saw the man. If anything, they saw a bundle of rags, a clump of garbage, and it didn't concern them. Ferguson knew the law would not help him.

A red and white pickup truck hauling a wagon piled with hay rattled toward him. Ferguson raised himself up on his elbows and twisted his hips under, wrenching a shoulder with the effort. His eyes threatened rain as surely as the red sun of morning; tears of hope pooled and he blinked rapidly, in time to watch the farmer drive by. If only the man had looked his way. Surely he would have stopped. If only he'd had eyes to see.

A growing knot in Ferguson's stomach competed with pounding pain. The day grew brighter and his circumstances grew more serious. He remembered. License suspended, car impounded, he had hitched a ride into this town. This town where he wasn't known, where his past was not pulled out and paraded in front of him. Just a couple of drinks, he'd thought. Just a couple of laughs. But the ride had turned to nightmare. He remembered the feel of the gun on the back of his head; the passenger in the backseat told him to hand over his wallet, his watch, his valuables.

"Open the door," the man instructed. "Get out."

He could still hear the low chuckle of the driver as he slowed down just enough to push Ferguson against the opened door. He rolled on impact, the sickening thud and crack of his body hitting the pavement drowned the retreating sound of tires and muffler. And then, nothing; he must have passed out.

Ferguson heard the next vehicle rumbling from a distance.  He struggled to make himself more visible to the driver sitting high in the cab of the approaching semi. Managing to sit, he used his arms, waving desperately. With each movement, pain. He saw the driver turn. He felt the driver's eyes on him, looking down from the cab like a judge from on high. Looking down at the fluttering body by the side of the road. No identification. No money. Ferguson didn't have anything to offer for the help he needed, help that was again denied him. Body broken, spirit parched, Ferguson lay back down, defeated.

One more time before the sun stood full in the sky, Ferguson struggled for the compassion of strangers. A church van slowed for a moment, raising his hope again. He couldn't help the angry flip-off he'd thrown when it sped away, kicking gravel in his direction. Satisfaction in seeing the shocked look on the faces of the holier-than-thous struggled with regret when he collapsed, nerves on fire, as a result of  his one-fingered action, his defensive reflex born of a lifetime of self-defeat.

He tried again to stand. Gritting teeth and fisting hands, he rolled onto bloody elbows and pulled torn knees beneath aching hips. His right leg wouldn't hold; he collapsed, exhausted and shaking with the effort. Then he tried to scoot along the shoulder of the road, through the tall grass, stretching his arms out behind to support his torso, and dragging the useless legs. The pain was manageable, and he made small progress. He found it easier to close his eyes, shut the world away, and focus solely on pulling himself down the road.

"Hey, Mister."

With the voice, a change, like feeling the sun go behind a cloud. Ferguson planted his hands in the grass and opened his eyes. Tennis shoes, blue jeans, loose and worn, standing in the light, shadow falling, blanketing him where he sat.

"You look bad, Mister." The voice again, deepish, with a hint of that adolescent break. Young.

Eyes tracking up, Ferguson noted the sag in the pants, the hoodie pulled up, the pocketed hands. He saw eyes the color of compassion, and a face overflowing with kindness, and he wondered. Why him?

"I'm gonna get you to the hospital, you need help. I'm gonna take care of you."

 Why not?

The first question that the Levite and the Priest asked was: 
‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’  
But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: 
‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

We Need Help

From one of the gates at Boldt Castle - looking out, over the Saint Lawrence....

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.
Romans 8:19 (NIV)

Yesterday I described a metaphor, based on an outing taken by my family over the weekend. We were on the river. We docked next to a castle, on an island, originally built as a gift from a loving husband to his wife. When she died mid-construction, it broke the man's heart. It broke his will. He abandoned the castle on Heart Island. The unfinished castle suffered through seven decades of neglect, to the elements, to vandalism, deserted by love.

The metaphor?

My husband, daughter and I didn't pay the admission price to go onto the castle grounds to explore. We were on the outside, looking in. It made me consider my life before Jesus, before belief, before grace. It made me think about being on the outside of Christianity and looking in. We stood at the fence, at the gate, at the door, and on the other side? Jesus. Jesus, the ultimate love story.

But there is another metaphor -- from the inside looking out.

Jesus came in the fullness of time to redeem us for all time. This plan existed from the beginning with the Word of Truth. Our Truth came to earth. A seed - one person in one place. And it grew. And it spread. And it still spreads. At first, because of Roman roads, because of common language, because of the political and military structure of the time, because of the dissatisfaction in false gods. Because it was prophesied. Because our God is a mighty God, sovereign, faithful and just. And because our God is a loving God full of grace and wisdom.

The inside looking out. Imagine God's Kingdom in heaven. A mansion with many rooms, prepared and waiting. Waiting for us - yearning for us, the children of the King, to live, to laugh, to love. Waiting for us -- the inside looking out.

And how do we enter?

Our admission is admission. Our admission is belief. Our admission is prayer.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” 
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, 
you will be saved. 

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, 
and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

It sounds so easy, but sometimes it is the hardest thing. 

Belief that Jesus is Lord means WE aren't Lord.  

It means that we need to give up control.
We need to give up anxiety and worry.
We need to turn fear away.
Jesus can help us.

In order to turn fear away, we need to name it, confess it.
Then dismiss it.
Jesus can help us.

We need to set our hearts on His ways - ways of love, forgiveness, compassion, kindness.
Jesus can help us.

In these days of Ferguson and Isis, of Chattanoogas and Charlestons, in these days of entitlement and privilege, of racism and prejudice, of poverty and violence, of fear --- We need to see through His light, what CAN be so that it WILL be.

We need help.
Jesus can help us. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Outside Looking In

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, 
I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
Revelations 3:20 (NIV)

The castle commands attention. Look at me! Look at me! Look at my beautifully crafted stone walls, my manicured lawn, my geometrically detailed windows! Did you notice the gateway? A turreted, bridged walk spanning the river? Did you notice the docks and the shops? The yachts and the afternoon cruises? The cameras? The tourists? Located in the heart of this 1000 Island Region, almost directly across the water from riverside hotels and motels with the multi-windowed and balconied views. Look at me!

We stayed on the outside - looking in. And the castle - was on the inside, looking out...

Beautiful. Stunning. Breathtaking. And it has a story... a romantic, sad, love story.
 Beginning in 1900, the Boldt family spent summers in the 1000 Islands at the Boldt Families Wellesley House near Mr. Boldt’s Wellesley Island Farms while 300 workers including stonemasons, carpenters, and artists fashioned the six story, 120 room castle, complete with tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, a drawbridge, alster tower (children’s playhouse) and a dove cote. Not a single detail or expense was spared.
In January 1904, tragedy struck. Boldt telegraphed the island and commanded the workers to immediately “stop all construction.” Louise had died suddenly. A broken hearted Boldt could not imagine his dream castle without his beloved. Boldt never returned to the island, leaving behind the structure as a monument of his love.     
Metaphor commands my thinking.

I remember when I was on the outside, looking in at the greatest love story our world has ever known. I remember when I allowed my disbelief to overcome my faith. I remember yearning for the peace of green pastures and still waters. I remember the feelings of not-deserving; confusion and turmoil. I remember thinking the distance too great, and the path too difficult; the water was too deep and too wide.
For 73 years, the castle and various stone structures were left to the mercy of the wind, rain, ice, snow and vandals. When the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property in 1977, it was decided that through the use of all net revenues from the castle operation it would be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.
Imagine 73 years of neglect.  Imagine the damage to the buildings, to the estate, to the island.

Heart Island. Metaphor.

And now imagine the healing, tender care and meticulous attention. Love on Heart Island.

Jesus healed me. He took my brokenness and made me whole. Once upon a time, I stood on the outside of Him, and looked in. And yet, He is always looking out for the lost, lovingly, with great mercy and grace. Yesterday I was reminded of how very far He has brought me.

He can heal you, too.

Linking with Kelly and Jen

Friday, August 7, 2015

You are Here

It's Five-Minute Friday, where I join a community of writers on a one-word prompt. Five minutes. Just five minutes to write, and in that writing, to incorporate the one word. No editing, no rewriting, no going back. The prompt this week is: here.

You are here
Like at the mall
And I'm looking at the shop directory
The map with the yellow star
Just past the Food Court
Fragrance of Cinnabuns
Like fine perfume
I have to find the restroom

You are here
I watch the blue dot
On my phone
Move along a black thread
Untangled from back roads
Hay bundles litter the fields
Furred checkers
On a titan gameboard
Fresh breath of clean

You are here
The U-haul orange
Almost hits the eaves
Ramp clanks
Dolley-wheels squeak
Garage door rumbles open
Empty house
Soon-to-be filled
Smells like emptiness

You are here
My finger points to the number
Chapter and verse
My daughter's bible
On her lap in church
Next to the journal
Where she copies holy words
Of grace and love
I inhale her innocence and
Exhale prayers for her safety

You are here.
On this journey
In this place
Wrapped in His arms
Peace to you

You are here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Jesus is Here

I can't seem to let it go, this new thing my daughter is telling me. I sit at my computer in the early-before-morning, cup of coffee on the desk beside me. My husband and I share the desk, he checks the weather and wanders through Craigslist; I catch up on emails and facebook. Sierra is usually the last to come down the stairs.

It used to be that she would wrap warm, sleepy arms around me, then move to our favorite Army guy, then to the dog - old dog in his bed - awake but not up. I've said it before - my daughter is an equal-opportunity hugger. It used to be, that after her 'rounds', she made her way to the kitchen to pour herself a cup of coffee, then move the piano bench over to the desk to share our morning with us.

"I am not awake yet," sleepy sounding words, soft voice.

"I not have my coffee yet", true statement of the obvious.

But this last week has been different. Yes, we still get hugs all the way around. Yes, she still gets that precious cup of coffee.

But this last week, the good-morning statements aren't about being awake. They aren't about coffee.

"Jesus is here, Mommy."

My heart jumps. You have to know my daughter. She's not a halfway kind of girl. If she's unsure, or treading those waters of not-knowing, or not-understanding, she ducks her head, avoids eye contact, changes the subject, gives a little, misplaced giggle, or passes the topic off with a 'just kidding' statement. Not today. Not yesterday, nor the day before. Her voice is strong; her words are clear. Her eyes sparkle with life, like bright sunlight on the river.

"Jesus is here."

It's the first thing she tells me, everyday now for a week.

I've asked her about it, about Him. "Where?" I ask.

"In my room." Her smile widens, like a memory. Words still crystal clear.

"In your room?" Her hand pats my shoulder and rubs my back. She must sense my confusion. I am thinking about Jesus. I am thinking that I know He is with us, in our lives; I believe in a personal Savior. I am thinking about Jesus in my life, in my heart. It is the first time I've ever heard my daughter express this kind of relationship with Jesus.

"Is Jesus in your heart?" I am searching her face, her eyes, her smile. I don't fully know what she understands. I think she may know more about Jesus than I ever will while I'm still here on earth. I think, not the first time, that her spiritual connection surpasses express-ability.

She places her hands on her chest, she knows where her heart is - lots of visits to various cardiologists have given her a good sense of this kind of anatomy.

"Yes, Jesus is here; he is in my heart."

Have you ever seen someone transformed by joy? I witnessed my daughter, her face bright, her eyes wide, her smile wide, her hand on her heart, transformed. Jesus does that to people, doesn't He?

There is a growing ministry in many churches and denominations - some call it Disability Ministry - I would prefer a name like Differing Ability Ministry - but, words...right? I suppose I've had a finger on the pulse of this ministry for several years, ever since we became part of a 'Friends Class' and 'Bridge Service' in Virginia, where adults with cognitive disabilities were invited to worship and take a Sunday School class. I helped teach that class for awhile. The hope behind Disability Ministry is to provide a place for adults and children, like my Sierra, to learn about and access all of the things we all want and need to learn and access within a church community: fellowship, missions, scriptural knowledge and insight, corporate praise and worship...

The idea is spreading and there are successes and not-so-successes. In some ways, it is transforming the way churches 'see', and causing them to review and revise some hidden and not-so-hidden policies. Change. No matter who the population, there will be change.

I read something recently, by a guy deep in the process of facilitating positive change for Disability Ministry. In his blog, Disabled Christianity, he wrote about a verse from Matthew that opened my eyes concerning my daughter.

You have been given the chance to understand the secrets of the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 13:11 (NIV)

Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely.
Matthew 13:12 (Message)

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
James 1:5 (NIV)

What an exciting opportunity we have. Ask for wisdom. Jesus is here. Seek the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is here. Make your heart ready. Jesus is here.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Not Perfect for the Worms

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, 
that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
John 3:16 (KJV)

Yesterday was, in the words of my daughter, a good day. The full moon reflected light across our neighborhood; it was Oh-dark-thirty when we walked down the driveway, across the road, and climbed into the jeep. Sierra, with her backpack slung over her shoulder, tenderly carried our breakfast - two boxes of sugary-pastry snacks, to eat on the trip to the river. Her pack was ready; ipad, a chapter book, a workbook, and a bag full of colored markers. My husband and I both carried bags - lunch, waterbottles, extra jackets, bait, poles...

By the time we arrived at our special fishing spot, the moon was a distant memory and the sky showed promise of beautiful blue.

I sat on the back of the boat, trying to throw my line into precisely the right patch of sunlight and weeds, the perfect place where I knew my fish was lurking. The breeze molded the water into precious waves, breaking on the shore and whispering through the rushes, like an instrumental accompaniment to the singing of each cast and plunk - musical and fulfilling.

It was a perfect time.

I looked around and stretched my arms out wide to my husband, my daughter, and the lake - an all inclusive hug, and I said it out loud. "This is perfect."

Then I spied the bait container. I'll bet it's not perfect for the worms. I know, I couldn't help myself.

So, here's the thing. We live with perspective, we see the world through a particular point of view. Ours. Some of us, at times, try on a different perspective, a different way of seeing, a different point of view. 

I was sitting in church today, listening to the message about John 3:16. God SO loved the world --- he loved ALL of the world, not just our little corner and our little opinions, ALL of his creation. ALL his creatures, ALL of mankind, ALL of US. He still does. He even loves those who don't love him back, those who don't love anyone else, those who don't love themselves. 

Something to think about...

Linking with Janis, and Charlotte