First Sunday of Advent

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you. For behold, darkness covers the land; deep gloom enshrouds the people’s. But over you the Lord will rise, and his glory will appear upon you. 

Nations will stream to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawning. Your gates will always be open; by day or night they will never be shut. They will call you, The City of the Lord, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Violence will no more be heard in your land, ruin or destruction within your borders.  

You will call your walls Salvation, and all your portals, Praise. The sun will no more be your light by day; by night you will not need the brightness of the moon. 

Already, it’s the first Sunday of Advent. Another year drawing to a close. We had a restful Thanksgiving here camping on the California Delta. Today we will pack up and go home, back to the familiar routine, which can be comforting in its own way.

As I opened Dad’s prayer book this morning, a picture of the two of them came fluttering out. A picture of them both in front of a tent on one of their many camping trips. They are both beaming, happy. That’s how I think of them now, their souls basking in Heavenly light. 

The passing of time is keenly felt to all of us here below, but we are grateful for these times when we can pause briefly from our labor. From this time forth, let the crowds go crazy looking for the perfect gift spending money they may or may not have. 

I will seek God’s rest as much as I can.

Shalom

Pass It On

I quietly crept in the dark, coffee in hand, to my AM sitting spot out on the swing, cat on my heels, padding soundlessly. We have turned back time once again, at least our clocks have. Well, not all of them, just the smart ones on our IPhones. The other ones know the truth and stalwartly guard it until we manually force the hands back. I wondered why I was awake earlier than usual, then I remembered. 

I sit and Sister rides the movement like a surfer and settles, waiting for her morsel of frosting from my other morning addiction. She has a sweet tooth like me. Nearby an owl is closer than normal and the staccato who-who-whooing is the only sound I hear. Away in the distance one answers back in a slightly different tone, never the same. I marvel at that. At all God’s creation. I think of this time as a kind of church without the human parishioners. 

I am privy, once again to a small feeling of familiarity. Of how it must have been in pre-sin Eden. When all was newly perfect. Before the lethal question that still rankles our present world. “Did God?” The spirit of doubt puts us all on a precipice of nagging gloom. It is the thing that always destroys our peace. 

But right now where I sit, there is silence and wonder and knowing that God is still keeping perfect order behind the scenes. High above, I hear the rumble of a passing plane. After that, a train rolls through. Then, a rustling in the redwoods announces the presence of a gentle wind. It’s a sound I never tire of hearing. It always produces a peace but also a feeling of melancholy from memories of happy times camping in Yosemite. 

When I hear the wind sigh in the pines, I remember golden afternoons when hikes were done, showers were taken and dinner planned, those breezes would come through before the hush of evening. That sound will forever solidify those times for me. 

I watch the tops of the trees bend and sigh, myself.

A neighboring tree answers. 

“Pass it on,” it seems to say. 

And it was answered by another and another, until the message was spread throughout the whole earth.

And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that He had done. Genesis 2:3

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.

It’s a small, small world

It’s July 9, 2022 and I still sometimes catch myself wanting to write the date starting with a 19, imagine that. Last night I had a dream that I was scheduling my tans like I used to do before an event where I knew I would be wearing a bathing suit in front of other people. Maybe that’s where the “19” came from on the date. The 1970’s were the decade that saw me purposefully baking in the sun to color my acne-ridden skin. 

If I knew then what I know now I may still have done it. (I may have skipped the tanning bed in the 80s though.) It’s the second month of my summer break from school. I am blessed to be able to see children every day at my job and play at least a small part in their education in a supportive role. I’m in the 6th year of this “retirement” job and it will be my last. Yesterday I tore open the important looking envelope from the School District that held my next assignment. Praise God, it’s the same school and the same student as last year, little Edith. I am more than thrilled. 

I am currently reading Ray Bradbury’s book entitled “Dandelion Wine” In it, one of the elderly characters is described by the town youth as a time machine. I am beginning to feel like one of those myself. It’s a wonderful book that was recommended by someone on one of the timelines of social media and I was glad to find it in the library. It will be one I may buy and keep on my hallowed shelves. That is, one day when I do get shelves again. 

Speaking of the library, I was going through withdrawals since I hadn’t been there for a few days. When I got there it was 11:58 and they opened at noon. There were around 7 people waiting there and more walking up. I saw a lady around my age waiting too so I seized the opportunity to talk to her. “Encouraging, isn’t it, that people are waiting in line to read?” Her face brightened and she said, “Oh yes, I volunteer in the bookstore and sometimes I just buy kids books for them as a treat.” I said, “Yes, how often can you buy anything for a dollar or less anymore.” 

She said her greatest reward was that one of the kids ran up to her and hugged her legs. I told her I was a Teacher’s Aide and I heartily agreed that was the absolute best reward you could get. 

Later E and I had lunch with a longtime friend and I told her of my conversation. I described the lady and she said, “Oh yes, her name is Betty. They bought our house on Glenhurst.” Well, Glenhurst Street was my childhood home. The one we just sold this year after my folks passed. 

Turns out it is a small, small world sometimes. 

To those faithfuls who still may be reading, thank you for hearing me ramble. All is well in our little corner and I pray it is in yours!

Blessings, Lori

Sign in Locke, California

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.

Miscellaneous

Lassoing thoughts, figuring out what to keep

What to release

The writing process, even the phrase 

Taunts. “As if,” my own voice echoes 

Mocks. 

If no one is there to read, is it still a story? 

Because some things are too beautiful 

Not to share. 

Summer will always be 

The cool of the garden hose held over our heads

And “Let’s make skeletons!” 

Plopping down to feel the warmth of the driveway

Getting up to compare imprints

Purple Koolaid when it was still innocent

Remnants of powder on the cold metal rim.

Summer deliciousness. 

The hope of a warped chime from two blocks away

Rushing inside to get a thin dime

Missiles and Dreamsicles

Stubbed toes and hard-baked plastic flipflops

(Called thongs in those days)

All innocence must be kept like a treasure. 

And not forgotten. 

Writers are the guardians of recorded time.

It’s morning, and it’s God’s day.

I sip coffee and it tastes like gratitude.

I recognize for the umpteenth time

this is a sacred moment.

I stoop over the keyboard, the cat having stolen my chair.

I grant her a moment too.

Just like God has granted me so many over the years.

And this is present day and I summon the past in the form of a real

book. I know there are plenty of people like me,

who shun electronic readers.

Who know that reading is a feast for the senses.

The feel….smell….sound…..of a page.

The look of a particular font

even the thickness of the paper, all conjured up to make it

an experience.

Even before the first word is read.

Day Trip:

Luther Burbank’s Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa, California

Luther Burbank was a famed horticulturist who made his home in Santa Rosa for more than fifty years, and it was there that he conducted plant-breeding experiments that brought him world-wide fame. His personal friends and visitors to his home and gardens included Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. During his career, he introduced more than 800 new varieties of plants–including over 200 varieties fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains as well as hundreds of ornamental flowers.

Luther Burbank’s greenhouse and home in the background. One interesting fact is that although the town of Santa Rosa was greatly damaged by the great earthquake of 1906 in California, Luther’s home and greenhouse were unscathed. This little pocket of beauty is surrounded by a very busy street in the heart of downtown Santa Rosa and surrounded by street noise and foot traffic. I was struck, however, by the quiet once we stepped into the house. Luther’s father was a brick-layer and he made the bricks himself. A sure testimony to how well this place was built, in addition to the aforementioned fact about the earthquake.

“Fourth of July” roses and trellis below:

Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb.

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the mind.

Luther Burbank

Wandering around the grounds you can see the imprint of Luther’s second wife, Elizabeth who had a thing for unusual tiles. She and Luther married in 1916 when he was 67 and she was 28. That marriage lasted until Luther’s death in 1926. I didn’t snap any pictures of her tile collection since we were on a tour and I thought it might be rude to the sweet lady who was informing us of everything we were seeing.

Here is another angle of the greenhouse, which miraculously still has the original leaded glass. Only one pane has had to be replaced and that was because a rock was thrown through it.

I took many pictures but only selected a few here. It is a wonderful piece of American history come to life as you can see by the many photos on the grounds. As I wandered the gardens, it was incredible to think that I was walking where Helen Keller, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Jack London and so many others had set foot. People of all walks of life down throughout history have found peace in gardens.

After all, it’s where we all started……..

Isaiah 51:3

Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and a sound of a melody.

A very peaceful and happy Sunday to all. Lori