365 Plus 1

“I just heard “She’s gone” in my sleep” 

“Mom passed on October 2nd, 2021, at 3:40 AM”

As I opened my iPad to write this post, these were the two statements I had recorded here 365 days ago yesterday. A whole year and millions of breaths since her soul passed into Heaven, taking a part of mine with it. I hadn’t remembered the day, but my sister-in-law did. For some odd reason I thought it was the 6th. 

Maybe somewhere inside I knew. I had chosen the morning to finally box up her photo albums and clothes she had saved of mine that I had in my car partly because I didn’t know where else to put them or maybe I just wasn’t quite ready to turn them loose. 

I’m still making a weekly pilgrimage to the cemetery to do the flowers and it’s weird because I never wanted or felt a need to do this with either Grandparents or even my husband. Then again, there are no rules in grieving and that’s okay. Even as I thoughtfully arrange my Hobby Lobby bouquet, I have to smile, because I can almost hear both of them say, “Give it a rest already……”

Life stops for some and keeps going for others. Inexplicably. This morning I came across a blog post someone else wrote that I had to share in the aftermath of hurricane Ivan, you can read it here. As I very well know, there are no guarantees we will get another day. That makes today the most important day. Inhale deeply, everyone! 

Don’t just walk, see things when you walk. If you are in good health, thank God. If you aren’t, thank Him even more that He is with you in it. He once walked this earth and felt all the things you are feeling right now. If you are feeling despised and rejected, remember He was too. 

I’ve been reading Ezekiel, talk about a crappy job assignment. None of us has the right to complain! Year after year, they didn’t listen to any of his warnings. I venture to say that none of our employers has ever had to lay on our left side for 390 days, and an additional 40 on our right (for the sin of Judah). And even when they finally did concede that he had been right all along in his prophecy, they still didn’t act on it. 

There is a message there for all of us. Basically, we Christians are all little Ezekiels. We know there is Something and Someone better after we leave this place we call home, but too often we remain silent and distracted by the world. Ezekiel warned and obeyed until it hurt. 

Sometimes I don’t know why or how I can keep a lid on my wonder at God and how good He is. But if these words can be a little leaking of hope and joy out into the world then there is redemption in that. 

I leave you with these words from Paul.

“Finally, brethren (sistren too), whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything is worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8

Do Words Still Matter?

What words could I add? 

In light of all the suffering going on in the world right now, what words could I possibly add that would make any difference at all? It’s a question that writers everywhere ask. The answer, thankfully, always comes back the same, and has throughout history. Words matter a great deal because the written (or spoken) word will always have tremendous power to change. Even if that change is a barely detectable shift in the heart or soul. And there will always be readers. In my formative years, there were no computers, no iPhones. We had each other. Real faces, real places. And the things we read in books. We had no choice but to use our imagination. 

Flash forward to 1996. I started work at Intel, Corp. For 20 years I worked alongside many others deep within the heartbeat of the technological age. Together, we built the chips that made it all go. I remember back then people said we would be living in a “paperless” world. And now, in 2022 we are drowning in more paper than ever before. And thankfully, bookstores have not become obsolete. Libraries are still being funded. All is not lost. 

When you look around at our current world situation, it would be easy to lose hope. Character seems scarce. Crime is off the charts. And yet, we honor a beloved Monarch who has passed into glory. We honor and pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth because she embodied great character and values not readily seen much anymore. She had the role thrust upon her in her youth, and instead of resenting it, she rose to the challenge and continued to do so for 70 years. Splendidly. 

Also as Americans, after 21 years we must pause, at least at some point in our waking moments today and remember 9/11. We all remember where we were that day. 

On a more personal note, we have just gone through a massive heat wave here in California and yesterday we were released at last and out from under the 100 plus temps for the first time in several days and weeks. For quite a few days we have been hotter than Arizona which is very rare. 

Just being able to take a walk without sweltering was like a miracle. There is something so redeeming in it. Getting out, off the phone, away from the barrage of voices that can so often cause unease and weariness of soul. Come away with Jesus on the mountain and pray. Even He, being God knew how important that was. 

And read. If you haven’t read Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” I wholeheartedly recommend it. It will restore you to all things good, worthwhile, precious and true.  Most of all, read the Word that matters more than any others. His. Peace and Blessings, Lori

Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:105

The Quiet Hour

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It’s the quiet of the morning and I think again of what Thomas Merton said about this time in the marvelous anthology “Book of Hours

Antiphon:

“The most wonderful moment of the day is that when Creation in all its innocence asks permission to “be” once again, as it did on the first morning that ever was.” 

This little book was brilliantly edited by Kathleen Deignan. Somehow, she managed to reduce the mountainous volumes of his writing to this perfect little gem. I reach for this book again and again when I feel the turbulence in my soul that comes from a prolonged absence of my morning quiet time when I think I’m too busy. 

My soul tends to wither and fall prey to all kinds of clamor that our world can so effortlessly concoct. This small island of sacred space helps to remind me that:  

My soul is big enough to hold eternity. 

Big enough to hold Him. 

Or, rather, He makes Himself small enough to fit inside me. 

A humbling thought, one I have to make myself be silent enough to understand. Sometimes Alexa plays David Nevue quietly.  Soft piano hymns fall like gentle rain and the words come from a place I remember.  

Miracles never stopped happening

The possibility is there, we just have to accept the Invitation. 

Each morning, my coffee, my time, these conversations, become a kind of Holy communion. 

Even more important than a good night’s slumber is this rest for my soul. 

Here is a great verse to ponder that I found today in the Good Book:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

It’s now the close of the day. First week back to work and it’s Friday tomorrow. I’m calling that a victory.

Whispers

Mokelumne River: Lodi, California

It’s the day after we celebrated Independence Day as a nation. I took a walk, noticed things like you don’t notice in a car or even on a bike with the world flashing by. The reason I walk is not really for the exercise, but to be connected to our one humanity. To see people outside doing ordinary things. Puttering in their yards, digging up broken sprinklers, walking dogs. There is a wonder in that. E. followed me on the bike and due to tracker on these phones, caught up on California street where I paused. 

I went by 615 West Locust where Grandma and Grandpa C lived. That’s how they always signed our Birthday and Christmas cards. I think about who lives there now. They don’t know or care what went on there before. They don’t care about the rock collection behind the garage that I liked to rummage through, or Mabel the solid gray cat of theirs, or the ancient stove in the kitchen. That’s as it should be, the way of life, I guess. 

Walking along, I saw a kindred spirit taking photos of clouds, another cloud watcher, phone toward sky. 

Last night the bombs were bursting everywhere. Neighbor cats were in one of their secret places tucked away. This morning they were both at the door ready for breakfast. It’s a blessedly cool and quiet morning. The last few years, I find myself almost enjoying the day after a holiday more than the holiday itself. The next day holds no obligation, just presents itself in all its glory, unmarred, unmoored. 

I immediately walked down to the river because I had to capture this reflection in the water. On the path down, the wind held a whisper of fall. It happens sometimes in mid to late summer. I know there will be many days to swelter yet, but for now, I enjoyed the promise the universe had to offer. That another season will come. 

Nature always helps me say, “Wake up!” Makes me think that maybe we can put away all the petty stuff and maybe find some common denominator. I think that’s why God gave us babies, and cute animals and sometimes a scene that is so majestic and magnificent that it takes your breath. 

I pray today that maybe we all can find something to take our breath away. Just temporarily. Look to the left or right, maybe it’s the precious familiar person beside you. Maybe it’s just the sky. (And it’s never just sky.) Maybe it’s the promise that God said He will never leave us.

More than we need for our manna today.

Blessings, Lori

Old Friend

It washes over me at unexpected times. That a chunk of my life is missing, E asks me if I want to go by my old home. (She knows I will say yes.) She goes by too after Walmart runs to see what’s what. What changes the new owners might be making. When I drive by it’s as if I’m gazing into the familiar face of a cherished old friend, not a place I once lived. No matter how it changes. I will remember…..

I remember little girl yellow and a record player on the floor. And ruffled chenille on the bed. My Mom so mad at the dog for lifting his leg right after she washed it. I remember backyard Birthdays, sheet thrown over the line and fishing for prizes which my brother and his friend fastened from the other side. Names of neighborhood crushes scrawled underneath the windowsills.

And sounds…..the funky doorbell I can hear so clearly. The particular slam of the screen door, the sound of my Mom singing and her voice telling me it was time to get up for school. My groan as I threw the covers over my head wishing for Saturday. 

On the other side of town, I see a sad row of buildings on Main taken over by the homeless, now rampant with drugs and stolen piles of garbage. In my mind I remember the sound our shuffling feet climbing the stairs to the upper room of the Mandarin House Chinese restaurant. We thought we were in Chinatown. The gentle clink of teacups and saucers. Okazaki’s was somewhere downstairs, the Japanese shop where they made the best snow cones. 

Memories can save us when everything around us is unfamiliar and changing. We walk about in a world we no longer recognize. We talk about it every day. Are we, (the sixty-somethings) the last to remember a world that was somewhat sane? 

Of course human nature has always been the same but I truly believe we are just now beginning to see the harmful effects of endless social media. It can’t be healthy to have events plastered our faces at every turn. The mind reels from it. There is no time for the mind to recover from one tragedy when you’re presented with another. 

But thankfully, some things will always remain the same. The important things. God knew there would come a day when we would need to derive comfort from looking up at the unchanging planets. He knew we would always need to gaze into the innocent eyes of a newborn to keep cynicism at bay. And to stand in wide-eyed wonder on the shore of an ocean which seems endless. 

It is Sunday, June 5, 2022, the day of Pentecost. Fifty days after He rose. And God is still in control. And I remember one day long ago when the Holy Spirit touched down in my little world. On a cold, foggy, miraculous December day close to Christmas. 

The Spirit will not always strive with men, but He was with me that day. And He’s with me still. I close my eyes and hear the peace murmured, the rustle of clothes and muffled kneelers leftover from Episcopalian days, and the Doxology from my Baptist days. And singing “Morning is Broken” on the dewy grass at a Methodist Sunrise Easter service. 

Life is good. Because God is.

He is risen! (and so can we)

A motley crew. The rock band spelled it differently so I don’t think that will land me in copyright jail. It’s just really the perfect term for all of us. Jesus most trusted friends all scattered when He was arrested. Matthew 26:56 says: “Then all the disciples deserted Him and fled.” Each of us is gets to rise up this morning; we have another chance at life and a myriad of choices in one 12 hour day. 

Just getting up sometimes is hard, isn’t it? But we get to, today. And we will continue to have victories and failures, sometimes simultaneously. We will curse the driver in front of us and then apologize to God for our language and our anger flare ups. We will act like the disciples did when they gave up on Jesus. 

I went to place fresh flowers on Mom and Dad’s grave yesterday and I saw people laying on the ground next to their loved ones resting place. I saw Easter eggs scattered around graves, bottles of adult beverages (which always seems strange to me) and food. I saw sorrow. 

Then I thought of the words of the two Angels in Scripture here as described in Luke 24:

“While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee.” 

Why do we seek the living among the dead? It’s human nature, I guess. Why do we as a human race continue to choose things like war, addictions that wage war on our bodies and souls, death instead of life? 

But because of Jesus final victory over death, we too can rise to new life. PERMANENTLY. That is what makes Easter the most important event in human history. We have the victory because when Jesus rose from the grave He had the final word. Because of this, though our bodies may rest in the ground, our souls reside in eternal home with Jesus. 

Until the time God says enough is enough, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16 comes to pass, we rise. And because of Easter. We rise with hope! 

Letting Go

It continues to feel strange, this new journey I’m on. In 2021, Dad passed on August 19, and then Mom passed 44 days later on October 2. At first, there was the flurry of activity involving the memorial for Dad, then we barely turned around and the same had to be done for Mom. We were taxed out emotionally and other ways too. We said our goodbyes with family and friends and things kind of leveled out. Then the house cleanup began…….(lots of buried emotions, plowing through and just getting it done.) 

Now the house sale. More emotion. More tears at unexpected times. I recorded certain sounds on my phone that I will never hear again which I may keep or not down the road. The sound of the old door locking/unlocking, the funky doorbell that for 40 years has sounded the same, and the closet doors my Dad installed that have been off kilter (also for years). 

But here is what I hear that can never be recorded except in my memory, and there they will stay. The sounds of hundreds of gatherings over the years. The October parties I used to plan with Mom, every backyard Birthday party with all the neighborhood “gaggle” of kids we played with. The fresh pot of coffee that was ever brewing for all kinds of friends and neighbors. Faces I still see so clearly: Mrs. Nystrom next door coming down the steps with a freshly made cake (from scratch of course). Mrs. Day from across the street with a loaf of something healthy and homemade. Ladies gathered around my Mom’s table, all strong women, each with their own heartaches and joys. I can see them, their faces aglow and the walls echoing their laughter. Praying hands in a circle. 

So much love, so much grief, so much life. And now all is stripped bare, devoid of any life but flowing with memory. This little tract home was Mom and Dad’s pride and joy. It was the model home of the neighborhood complete with the ugliest rock wall anyone’s ever seen. My Mom used to curse those rocks because when she vacuumed, they would come loose. When my cousins came to say goodbye to the house, a couple of them wanted to take a pebble from the infamous wall. I told them, “Just get the vacuum out!” 

The funny thing is, they had to find tools to pry them off, almost as if they too, were reluctant to say goodbye. And if those little stones could talk, I’d like to think they would whisper back all those prayers my Mom said for me as we held hands before the fireplace, when going to school was so, so hard for me. 

I know walls, (and stones) can’t talk, but I do think they remember.


First Sunday of Lent

Each evening the sun’s rays hit my Mom’s sheep and birdhouse at exactly the same spot. I never planned it that way, it just happened. Sometimes the cat poses along with the sheep putting himself squarely in the portrait. More than likely he’s only following the last bit of warmth before evening.

This morning I was leafing through my Dad’s Book of Common Prayer. He had written a note over part of the Eucharist seen below:

This made me smile. I know Dad was proud of his Scottish and English heritage. Since I did my DNA a few years back I’ve found that I’m 28% Scottish. I previously thought I was more English.

I read aloud and as I did, I recalled the soft murmur of voices in the chambers of my heart and memory. I remember the sounds in the old St. John’s church when it was on Lee Street in the middle of town. I heard the soft insulated thumps of prayer kneelers going up and back down. Dust motes floating through stained glass light; I heard us saying the words of the Eucharist all at once: 

We lift them to the Lord

It is right to give Him thanks and praise

So many years later it’s as if I’m there. And there are so many other church services down through my youth, Baptist, Methodist, Non-denominational, weekend Church retreats, you name it. My folks were denomination hoppers for a while and now I’m glad they were. Because the common denominator running through them all was tradition, and community. 

More than that, it was Jesus.

I remember faces, voices from the past, too many to count. I thought again how grateful I am to have this rich heritage of Churchgoing. Those memories hold you together in all those in between times in the desert of faith when you’re trying to recapture what you’ve lost. 

What I am sad about is that I am wondering if my generation will be the last to remember the old hymns. I can still chime in with the melodies even if some of the lyrics are lost. I can see the value in churches holding fast to keeping their traditions alive. In a world that is spinning out of control, it’s comforting to know you can attend church and parts of it at least, will still ring true. Still hold to tradition.

The fundamentalist in me misses altar calls. Remember those? The closing music starts up, and the Pastor stands at the front, invitation open. Hopeful hearts pray while eternity waits. Then one courageous individual stands and scoots across knees out of the row and into the aisle. The most dramatic and personal moment in the church for me was that moment. I was fourteen. I grabbed Mom and she went with me.

And the great miracle is that as Christians, we carry this living cathedral wherever we go. Held safely in the shelter of our hearts. A turn of the key, sealed for the day of redemption. As parents, the most invaluable gift we can give our kids is something, or most importantly someone bigger than themselves.

To deal with life’s blows you need this.

In closing, join me in prayer for our war weary tear-stained world. For you, for me, and the Ukrainian people and (no doubt, many Russian people) many of whom are not in favor of what is going on.  

God of the nations, whose sovereign rule brings justice and peace, have mercy on our broken and divided world. Shed abroad Your peace in the hearts of all and banish from them the spirit that makes for war, that all races and peoples may learn to live as members of one family and in obedience to Your law, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Anglican Church, Diocese of Perth. 

How it Started

There is no nature apart from God, but there is no reversing the phrase. Apart from God, there can be no nature. If you try to convince yourself otherwise you are lying to yourself and the very laws of physics. Someone set this all in motion and the One who did can just as easily stop it all. Every day we bear witness to a miracle when we wake if we choose to see it. With 330 species of just hummingbirds alone can we really say with a straight face that all of this just evolved? Does saying it with the utmost sincerity make it true? 

I hear a resounding no as I sit and watch the day start once again by the river. The river otter is busy crisscrossing over to one side and the other. A fish jumped in the same place three times, casting rings that caught the light. Geese heralded their way before I actually saw them in formation across the sky. And what about this love and companion that animals seem to want from us, and we from them?

A cat sits contentedly from her vantage point on my lap watching for fish to jump. Animals are yet another extension of the great love of God. Evolution can’t come close to explaining the emotional connection between domestic animals and our mutual need for each other. This kind of love and bond can only be explained by God’s great love for us.

Once again I am captivated by how the book of John begins…….In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without him was not anything made that was made.

And the Word started it all……

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The Word made flesh and dwelt among us

Taking a breath

Taking a breath

This season in my life is especially difficult for us all, and COVID has made everything worse. Dad has landed in a Convalescent Home. It all started the night Mom called me in a panic at 2:30 AM shouting into the phone, “Are you there, Lori, Lori, I need to call her…..” We had had several panic calls from Dad over the past year and I just figured this was another one. Something about this one seemed different.

When I rounded the corner and saw the ambulance and firetruck my heart dropped. It dropped even further when I came in and saw Dad lying on the bedroom floor with blood behind his head. Some things you cannot un-see, and that one will be there forever. They left so fast, there was no time to find his ID. Elaine thought to look in his pants pocket and we then rushed them to the hospital.

After several days he came home and collapsed again. 

So we are a small village of caretakers now. My brother, myself, Elaine and I. Mom can’t stay alone. I go from one place to another and back again. Mom doesn’t remember why Dad is there and asks continually when he’s coming home. It’s been mostly bad, but there a few moments here and there that we laugh together, and she expresses the joy of a child when I warm a blanket and throw it over her. 

I made her table look like Christmas and she exclaims surprise and joy all over again when she sees it. 

I feel like my soul is scoured out most of the time. Empty. I don’t do what I used to do. I no longer sit by the river, it gives me no comfort. I see it and it moves by soundlessly but it doesn’t touch me. I am continually distracted by the next phone call, the next text. My life right now is a treadmill and a schedule. Driven by the clock.

And yet, I have a best friend who is my emotional rock. She’s a pillar of strength. I’m not going it alone. There will be an end to this all. And God will be ready to embrace them both when it’s their time. Until then we do what we have to do to make things better for them. 

Books remain a joy, God has left me that. I snatch moments now and then. I can’t read at Moms because the questions are nonstop. She is trying so hard to map her world out right now. I feel so sad for her.

Churches remain closed and it amazes me how our whole world has changed since we stood on the beach at Moss Landing on the cusp of 2020. I wonder what has happened to us? I can’t help feeling in some ways this pandemic has revealed the apathy of the American church. How we have changed from the Pilgrims who risked everything to be able to worship freely. How much we have changed from our parents and grandparents generation. 

Have we caved into fear, or is it the right thing for society as a whole to keep everyone “safe?” Was being safe even a consideration of the early church? Have we missed the opportunity to show the world what God can do? It’s hard to know what’s right anymore. I don’t pretend to have the answers. Thankfully, God remains the same. Yesterday today and forever.  On that we can be assured. His mercy remains the same as well, thankfully.

Until then we soldier on and do the best we can. Help each other the best we can. We will get through this. It’s almost a new year and I need to remember who Jesus is. I have felt lost this whole year, but maybe writing can help me find my way back home. 

Whoever is still sticking with my inconsistent blogging, here’s to a hopeful 2021. My prayers and best wishes go with you all.